What Is Trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis is the most common curable sexually-transmitted disease and is easily diagnosed and treated by a health care professional.

Trichomoniasis (sometimes "trich", for short) is one of the most common diseases classified as sexually-transmitted. While most diseases given the STD classification are given such because of their relatively low contagion, trichomoniasis is actually somewhat more contagious than most STDs, being transferrable at times through contact with moist surfaces that have groin exposure, especially with females. This can include, in the rarer of circumstances, exposure to mutually shared wet towels, bathing suits, or toilet seats, though this does not make public toilet seats an especially high risk for exposure, as direct toilet seat contact with the surface of the genitals is effectively required by both parties for a high rate of transmission.

The culprit is a protist called Trichomonas vaginalis, a single-celled flagellated organism that makes its home in the moist, dark regions of the body. This makes the female anatomy more suited as a host, though males can come down with urethral infections of the same disease, and often act as carriers in this way. In fact, a considerable portion of either gender, when infected, can act as an asymptomatic carrier, spreading the parasite to others who may or may not exhibit symptoms.

The most notable symptom in women is vaginal itching, which may range from mild to severe. A colored discharge, which is almost always a sign of infection of some sort, is usually noted; trichomoniasis produces a discharge that is more profuse and more darkly colored than that which occurs during the normal menstrual cycle. Inflammation or redness of the vagina may be noticed, and pain will often occur during intercourse and urination. Men usually carry the illness without symptom, but may experience pain in urination or post-ejaculatory discomfort.


Diagnosis in women is usually performed on the basis of symptoms, initially. As the disease is common, it will not be hard to spot. Asymptomatic women may find that they are carriers of the infection during their routine gynecological examination, as the redness and vaginal lesions associated with the disease are not difficult to spot. A full diagnosis is made on the basis of the examination of vaginal discharge; the Trichomonas vaginalis protist is easily spotted with the aid of a microscope. A similar procedure is used to diagnose male cases, exchanging a vaginal discharge sample for a sample swabbed from the urethral opening.

Treatment is simple, and usually consists of a one-dose treatment with prescription metronidazole (Flagyl), which can and should be administered despite pregnancy; it causes no prenatal harm, and trichomoniasis often infects a baby during birth, if carried by the mother. Both partners must be medicated for the treatment to be effective, as an asymptomatic male carrier will re-expose his partner, even after she has received treatment.

Transmission is limited somewhat by the use of contraceptives such as the diaphragm or "sponge", but a condom is the most effective method of preventing transmission altogether (or very nearly so). Some conditions may produce an additional contraction risk for women, including the use of birth control, pregnancy, or certain parts of the menstrual cycle.

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