Trichomoniasis is found worldwide. In the United States, the highest number of cases are seen in women between age 16 and 35. Trichomonas vaginalis is spread through sexual contact with an infected partner. This include penis-to-vagina intercourse or vulva-to-vulva contact. The parasite cannot survive in the mouth or rectum.
The disease can affect both men and women, but the symptoms differ between the two groups. The infection usually does not cause symptoms in men and goes away on its own in a few weeks.
A pelvic examination shows red blotches on the vaginal wall or cervix. A wet prep (microscopic examination of discharge) shows the infection-causing organisms in vaginal fluids. A pap smear may also diagnose the condition.
The disease can be hard to diagnose in men. Men are treated if the infection is diagnosed in any of their sexual partners. Men may also be treated if they have ongoing symptoms of urethral burning or itching despite treatment for gonorrhea and chlamydia.
The antibiotic metronidazole is commonly used to cure the infection. A newer drug, called Tinidazole may be used.
You should not drink alcohol while taking the medicine and for 48 hours afterwards. Doing so can cause severe nausea, abdominal pain, and vomiting.
Avoid sexual intercourse until treatment has been completed. Sexual partners should be treated at the same time, even if they have no symptoms.
With proper treatment, the outcome is likely to be excellent.
Long-term infection may cause changes in the tissue on the cervix. These changes may be seen on a routine Pap smear. In such cases, treatment should be started and the Pap smear repeated 3 to 6 months later.
Treatment of trichomoniasis helps prevents the spread of the disease to sexual partners. Trichomoniasis is common among persons with HIV.
Calling your health care provider
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if any unusual vaginal discharge or irritation is noted.
Also call for an appointment if you suspect that you have been exposed to the disease.
A monogamous sexual relationship with a known healthy partner can help reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections, including trichomoniasis.
Other than total abstinence, condoms remain the best and most reliable protection against sexually transmitted infections. Condoms must be used consistently and correctly to be effective.
Van Vranken M. Prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases: An update. American Family Physician. 2007 Dec;76(12).
Shrestha RK, Englund K. Sexually transmitted diseases. Infectious disease. In: Carey WD, ed. Cleveland Clinic: Current Clinical Medicine 2010. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:section 8.
David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc., and Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Redmond, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine.