If you are sexually active, it is important to be aware of the risks that sexual activity may bring with it. Of primary concern should be the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases. There are a number of very common STDs, many of which cause a number of unpleasant symptoms. And, if left untreated, a number of these STDs can have permanent health complications. Trichomoniasis is one of the most common STDs, particularly amongst young, sexually active women. Though trichomoniasis can be cured easily, it can increase your risks for certain health problems if left untreated.

What is Trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a microscopic parasite, known as Trichomonas vaginalis. Trichomoniasis affects both women and men and, along with chlamydia, herpes, and hepatitis B, is one of the most commonly occurring STDs. Often referred to as "trich," trichomoniasis usually infects the vagina in women and the urethra in men. Every year, there are more than one million cases of Trichomoniasis in the UK.

How Do You Get Trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis is primarily transmitted through unprotected vaginal intercourse with an infected partner. However, you can also get the trich STD from:

  • vulva to vulva intercourse
  • mutual masturbation
  • sharing infected sex toys

Men typically contract trichomoniasis from female sex partners, but women can get trichomoniasis from both male and female sex partners.

Risk Factors for Trichomoniasis

Because trichomoniasis is such a common sexually transmitted disease, any man or woman who is sexually active can contract the parasite. However, there are certain factors that can increase your risk for being infected with trichomoniasis. These risk factors include:

  • having multiple sex partners
  • having a partner who has had multiple sex partners
  • engaging in unprotected sexual activity
  • having gonorrhea or non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU)

Women are also more likely to contract trichomoniasis then men.

Diagnosing Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis can be diagnosed relatively easily. Your health care provider will likely perform a quick physical exam, looking for symptoms of trich. She will also take a swab from your vagina or urethra. This swab will then be sent to a laboratory where it will be cultured for a few days. This cultured swab will then be analyzed under a microscope for the presence of the trichomoniasis parasite.

Symptoms of Trichomoniasis

The symptoms of trichomoniasis can sometimes be quite mild and difficult to detect. Additionally, most men and some women never experience any symptoms of the infection, which makes it more likely that these people will unknowingly spread the infection. If symptoms do occur, they usually manifest between four and 28 days of infection. In women, symptoms include:

  • a frothy, yellow, green, or grey vaginal discharge
  • vaginal odor
  • painful sexual intercourse
  • pain upon urination
  • vaginal itching
  • swelling of the labia
  • abdominal discomfort

Because of their similar symptoms, some women may mistake their trich symptoms for a yeast infection.

In men, symptoms of trichomoniasis include:

  • irritation of the penis
  • pain during urination or ejaculation
  • pale white discharge from the urethra
  • itching of the urethra

Complications Associated with Trichomoniasis

If left untreated, trichomoniasis can put you at increased risk for certain health problems. These complications include:

  • increased risk of contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS
  • increased risk of transmitting HIV to other sexual partners
  • fallopian tube inflammation
  • inflammation of the prostate (prostatis)

Trichomoniasis and Pregnancy

Trichomoniasis is of particular concern during pregnancy. Women who have trichomoniasis while they are pregnant are at increased risk for:

  • preterm labour
  • having a low-birth weight baby

The trich infection can be passed along to baby during delivery, however, the infection causes no symptoms in newborns and will go away on its own.

Treating Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis can be treated successfully with a one-day or seven-day course of antibiotics. The antibiotic metronidazole is usually the antibiotic of choice. Sexual intercourse of any kind should be avoided until all symptoms disappear.

Preventing Trichomoniasis

There are effective ways that you can protect yourself against trichomoniasis and other STDs.

  • Always wear a condom when engaging in any type of sexual activity.
  • Limit your number of sexual partners.
  • Get tested regularly for STDs and encourage your partners to get tested.
  • If you notice any signs of STD infection, stop having sexual intercourse and visit with your health care provider as soon as possible.

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