Trichomoniasis is an infection caused by a tiny parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. It is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, and infects millions of people every year.
The tricky part about getting “the trich” is that most people won’t show any symptoms or signs at all. This means that you can live with this infection for months, or even years, before you know you have it.
How does trichomoniasis spread?
This tricky parasite is passed from one person to the other in vaginal fluids and ejaculate. This means that it can be spread during vaginal sex, sharing of sex toys, vulva-to-vulva contact, and on your hands – when one person has sexual fluids on their hands and then touches themselves or another.
The good thing about this infection is that it seems to stay limited to the sexual fluids and doesn’t cause infections of the mouth or anus.
How will I know if I have trichomoniasis?
Most people won’t know that they have it at all – 70% actually!
If you are part of the 30% that do show symptoms, they usually show up 3-28 days after you have gotten infected. You could have:
- Burning urination
- Vaginal or urethral discharge which is foul smelling (can be white, yellow, green, or grey and frothy)
- Itching, redness or swelling of the genitals
- Pain or discomfort during sex
- Bleeding after sex
Sometimes the symptoms can come and go, but this doesn’t mean that the infection went away.
The only way to know for sure whether you have trichomoniasis is to get tested.
Testing for trichomoniasis involves taking a simple cotton swab sample of the vaginal or urethral fluids and sending them for testing. The tests performed are nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) or an antigen-detection test.
Sometimes the nurse or doctor will look at the sample under a microscope right there in the office to see if they can identify the infection without the need for further testing. Unfortunately this method isn’t as accurate and not all places have them on hand.
You can get tested at your local clinic or doctor’s office. It is not necessary to see a gynaecologist for this. So save yourself some bucks!
Is there anything I should do before getting tested for trichomoniasis?
- Don’t engage in any sexual activity beforehand. It’s never a good idea to have sex when you think you might have an STI.
- Don’t douche or use any “hygiene” products on your vulva or inside your vagina at least 24 hours before your appointment. This will interfere with the results of the test. You shouldn’t be doing this in any case!
- Try not to get tested while you are having your period. But if you are having any sort of abnormal bleeding, then you shouldn’t wait or postpone testing.
What is the treatment for trichomoniasis?
The good news about trichomoniasis is that it’s completely curable! All it requires is a once-off dose of metronidazole or tinidazole pills and it’s gone.
But remember, you can still get trichomoniasis again!
After receiving treatment, it is best to wait one week before engaging in sexual activities again. Make sure that all of your sexual partners get treated as well. People seem to always forget about this part!
You don’t want to go through all of this to go and get trich again two days later!
If trichomoniasis is so easy to treat, why should I be worried about it?
The problem with trichomoniasis, and most sexually transmitted infections, is that it causes inflammation. Not only can this inflammation cause discomfort, but it increases your risk of getting other infections as well, such as gonorrhoea, HPV, herpes, and most importantly, HIV.
How do I prevent getting trichomoniasis?
As mentioned above, trichomoniasis is spread via sexual fluids. This means that in order to protect yourself and your partners, you need to prevent contact with sexual fluids.
You can do this by:
- Using condoms correctly, including on your sex toys.
- Not sharing sex toys
- Not engaging in vulva-to-vulva contact
- When using your hands for fingering or manual stimulation, do not touch your own genitals directly afterwards without washing your hands properly.
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Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection that likes to spread via the sexual fluids. Most people wont ever show any symptoms so it’s important to get tested regularly. The timing of testing will depend on your sexual behaviour and how many partners you have over a period of time.
The good news about this infection is that is it completely curable and can be taken care of super easily. Just make sure your partners are treated at the same time!
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Disclaimer: This blog contains my opinions and doesn’t reflect the opinions of the Department of Health of South Africa or The Southern African Sexual Health Association. All information is accurate and true to the best of my knowledge, but it’s possible that there may be omissions, errors or mistakes. While I am a qualified medical doctor, I am not YOUR doctor. The information presented on this blog is for entertainment and/or informational purposes only and shouldn’t be seen as professional medical advice. If you rely on any information presented, it’s at your own risk. Please consult a professional before taking any sort of action. I reserve the right to manage this blog as I see fit, including the right to remove harmful or unhelpful comments.