Unlike most sexually transmitted diseases, trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite rather than by bacteria or a virus. The trichomoniasis parasite can be present in the vagina for years without causing symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms
If they do occur, typical symptoms for women include vaginal itching and burning, a greenish-yellow vaginal discharge, and burning or pain when urinating. Sexual intercourse can be painful. In men, symptoms include mild itching and irritation of the penis, pain during intercourse, and discomfort when urinating. Men who have trichomoniasis usually don’t experience any symptoms. They may infect their sexual partners and not know it.
Trichomoniasis is diagnosed by examining a drop of vaginal fluid under a microscope.
The oral medication metronidazole (brand name Flagyl), is used to treat trichomoniasis. If you’re a woman, don’t take this drug during the first three months of pregnancy. Avoid drinking alcohol for 24 hours before, during, and 24 hours after taking the metronidazole. The combination causes vomiting, dizziness, and headaches.
Sexual partners of an infected person should also be treated to prevent getting infected again or spreading the infection further.
Questions to Ask
For Men and Women:
Do you want to rule out the presence of Trichomoniasis or other sexually transmitted diseases for any of these reasons:
- There’s only one way to guarantee you’ll never get a sexually transmitted disease: Never have sex.
- Limiting your sexual activity to one person your entire life is a close second, provided your partner is also monogamous and does not have a sexually transmitted disease.
- Avoid sexual contact with persons whose health status and practices are not known.
- Avoid sex if either partner has signs and symptoms of a genital tract infection.
- Don’t have sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (except in a monogamous relationship in which neither partner is infected with an STD).
- Discuss a new partner’s sexual history with him or her before beginning a sexual relationship. (Be aware, though, that persons are not always honest about their sexual history.)
- Latex condoms can reduce the spread of sexual diseases when used properly and carefully and for every sex act. They do not eliminate the risk entirely. Unless they are in a monogamous relationship in which neither partner has an STD, both women and men should carry latex condoms and insist that they be used every time they have sexual relations.
- Using spermicidal foams, jellies, creams (especially those that contain Nonoxynol-9), and a diaphragm can offer additional protection when used with a condom. Use water-based lubricants such as K-Y Brand Jelly. Don’t use oil-based or “petroleum” ones such as Vaseline. They can damage latex condoms.
- Wash the genitals with soap and water before and after sexual intercourse.
- Seek treatment for a sexually transmitted disease if you know your sex partner is infected.
- Ask your doctor to check for STDs every 6 months if you have multiple sex partners, even if you don’t have any symptoms.