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What Is Trichomoniasis And How Is It Treated?

Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause infection in both men and women. It is fairly common in the United States, with over 3.7 million Americans affected by this disease.


Trichomoniasis is caused by a single-celled protozoan called Trichomonas Vaginalis. Like other STDs, trichomoniasis also spreads through sexual contact. It can also spread when people share their sex toys. Trichomoniasis does not cause any severe symptoms and only causes complications very rarely. The treatment for this STD is fairly simple and effectively eliminates the protozoa and the disease entirely from the body. 


While trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease, it does not have the horrific profile most STDs carry. The diagnosis and treatment for this disease are fairly simple, and it does not cause severe complications too often. However, a little knowledge about its symptoms is required to identify this disease.


AN OVERVIEW OF TRICHOMONIASIS AND ITS SYMPTOMS

A single-celled protozoan agent causes trichomoniasis, called Trichomonas Vaginalis. Therefore, this protozoa transmits through direct genital contact and is spread through sexual contact of all kinds. Unprotected sexual contact puts an individual at a greater risk of acquiring this agent.


Trichomonas Vaginalis infects women much more readily than men. According to CDC, women in their reproductive age (14-49) are at a much greater risk of acquiring this disease than men. Once acquired, this agent can cause an infection in the urethra, vagina, or both in women. In men, Trichomonas Vaginalis only causes an infection of the urethra.


Since trichomoniasis is a mild sexually transmitted disease, it does not display any symptoms in most infected individuals. According to the CDC, symptoms only appear in about 30% of the cases. Even when the symptoms appear, they are mild and can be managed easily with medication. However, it is important to note that any irreversible damage caused by untreated trichomoniasis cannot be reversed with medication. It is also important to note that asymptomatic individuals can still transmit the pathogen to other people.


Symptoms usually occur 5 to 28 days after the initial infection and may take even longer for some individuals depending on their health status and immunity. The most common symptoms for women are as follows:

  • Discharge from the vagina (can be white, gray, yellow, or even green)
  • Spotting or frank bleeding
  • Burning and itching sensation in the genital area
  • Erythema (redness) and occasional swelling in the genitals
  • Frequent micturition (increased frequency of urination)
  • & burning micturition


Notable symptoms of trichomoniasis in men include:

  • Urethral discharge
  • Burning micturition with increased urinary frequency 


HOW IS TRICHOMONIASIS DIAGNOSED?

Since the symptoms of trichomoniasis are very non-specific, it can easily resemble any other sexually transmitted disease. Therefore, diagnosis through only symptoms is often difficult to establish. Your doctor may take a detailed clinical history, conduct a physical examination, and order several tests to reach a confirmatory diagnosis.


History questions may inquire about your current health status, past and current sexual habits, and sexual partners. Your doctor may also ask about your preferred type of contraception and sexual protection.


Physical examination may reveal discharge from genitals. Your doctor may take samples from this discharge and send them for further testing. Specialized tests have been developed to diagnose trichomoniasis in both men and women quickly.


Cell cultures and urethral discharge examinations are quick and easy to test for trichomoniasis. Microscopic examination often reveals the parasite, and there is generally no need for further testing.


There are also blood tests available that detect the antigen in the presence of anti-trichomonas antibodies. Trichomonas DNA testing is also available, which is highly specific and sensitive for diagnosing this condition.


HOW IS TRICHOMONIASIS TREATED?

Antibiotics are employed to treat trichomoniasis successfully. Metronidazole is the drug of choice, while Tinidazole is also viable. Generally, one big dose of Metronidazole is given to a patient to cure trichomoniasis. However, your doctor may also prescribe the drug in smaller doses, which are taken twice a day for seven days.


Abstaining from sexual contact for at least a week after treatment is advised. Alcohol is also prohibited for at least 24 hours if Metronidazole is used in the treatment – 72 hours if Tinidazole is used.


Symptoms of trichomoniasis go away within a week with successful treatment. If your symptoms persist even after a week, immediately check with your doctor. It is important that people who have trichomoniasis also get their partners tested for the disease.


Reinfection with Trichomonas is common in women during the first 3 months after treatment. Retesting within two weeks up to 3 months is advised to confirm that reinfection has not occurred.


Prevention remains the best treatment option for trichomoniasis and all other sexually transmitted diseases. Using condoms and other barrier methods of contraception is a good way of protecting yourself from acquiring a Trichomonas infection.


COMPLICATIONS OF UNTREATED TRICHOMONIASIS?

There are no serious complications that occur through a trichomoniasis infection alone. However, since trichomoniasis increases your chances of acquiring other sexually transmitted diseases, possible complications may arise from a co-infection with Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Vaginosis, and even HIV.


Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) may occur if trichomoniasis is left untreated for a long time and superinfections occur. PID is a serious complication that may result in fallopian tube scarring, chronic lower abdominal pain, and infertility.


AM I AT A RISK OF GETTING TRICHOMONIASIS?

According to the American Sexual Health Association, 1 million new cases of trichomoniasis occur every single year. Therefore, it is important to recognize the risk factors for this disease and eliminate them in order to prevent a Trichomonas infection in the first place.


Trichomonas infections are more common in women of reproductive age than in men. Older people are also more prone to acquiring this infection. Other risk factors for this disease include:

  • Having multiple active sexual partners
  • Not using protection during intercourse
  • Having a history of other sexually transmitted diseases
  • Having a history of previous trichomonas infection


It is best to avoid these high-risk behaviors to prevent trichomoniasis in the first place.


TRICHOMONIASIS DURING PREGNANCY

Although trichomoniasis does not cause any severe complications on its own, it can, however, cause serious and possibly fatal complications for the baby during pregnancy. 


Trichomoniasis can cause premature deliveries – deliveries that occur before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Premature babies are at a high risk of fatality due to their prematurity. Trichomoniasis during pregnancy can also cause term babies to be born with low birth weight.


Regularly getting tested for trichomoniasis, and other STDs, during pregnancy is a good idea. Treatment is usually done with Metronidazole which is safe to take during pregnancy. Often, trichomoniasis is cured within a week, and the chances of any complications developing in the baby are also eradicated. However, treatment may be complicated in antibiotic-resistance cases.


Talking to your doctor on the first appearance of any symptoms of trichomoniasis ensures a quick diagnosis and prompt treatment.


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