The Often Overlooked STD: Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis, also known as "trich," is a common sexually transmitted disease (STI) caused by a parasitic protozoan called Trichomonas vaginalis. With an estimated 156 million cases annually, trichomoniasis is one of the most treatable STIs worldwide.

Trichomoniasis is primarily transmitted through sexual contact (vaginal intercourse, oral sex, or anal sex) with an infected partner. The parasite is most commonly found in the vagina, but it can also infect the urethra in men. Although trichomoniasis is not classified as a serious infection, it can cause discomfort and complications, if left untreated.

Symptoms of Trichomoniasis

Most individuals with trichomoniasis do not experience any symptoms. However, when symptoms appear, they usually appear within 5-28 days after infection.

Symptoms of trichomoniasis may include:

- A thin, foamy, greenish-yellow, or gray discharge with an unpleasant odor

- Pain, itching, or a burning sensation during urination or sexual intercourse

- Genital inflammation or swelling

- Discomfort during sex

- Stomachache

Diagnosis of Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is diagnosed through laboratory tests that detect the parasite in vaginal or urethral discharge. To test for trichomoniasis, your healthcare provider may perform a swab test to collect a discharge sample from your vagina or urethra. In the case of men, a urine test may be requested instead.

Treatment of Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is treated with prescription drug, typically an antibiotic called metronidazole. The drug is usually given as a single dose taken over 7 days. To help prevent reinfection, both sexual partners should start treatment at the same time and abstain from sex or use condoms during treatment.

Prevention of Trichomoniasis

The best way to prevent trichomoniasis is to practice safe sex. This includes using condoms during sex and reducing the number of sexual partners. Women can also reduce their risk of infection by avoiding douching, as this can disturb the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina and increase the risk of infection.

Why get tested for Trichomoniasis?

Trichomonasis is one of the STIs that is most frequently reported in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Public Health reports that in 2020, there were over 12,000 trichomoniasis cases in the state. With a 20% increase from 2019, this is a considerable increase from prior years.

If you suspect that you are infected with trichomoniasis, it is recommended to get yourself and your partner tested in order to receive appropriate treatment and prevent any potential complications.

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