Trichomoniasis (aka. Trich)

What is it?

This infection is caused by tiny parasites that make their home in warm, moist places in the human body, particularly the vagina. In fact, millions of people across North America have this parasite. Because they can live for several hours in body fluids that have been left on clothing, bed sheets, or towels, it’s possible to become infected by putting your genitals in contact with these items. However, most cases of trich are transmitted between people by genital-to-genital contact. If you’ve been infected, symptoms will usually show up in one to four weeks.

What should I be looking for?

In female genitals, the most common symptom is a foamy, foul-smelling vaginal discharge that’s white or greenish-yellow in color. The discharge often causes the vulva and vagina to become red and itchy. In some cases trich extends to the cervix, urethra, and bladder. Some people will have a burning sensation when they urinate (pee) or will find penetration painful during sex. Others will have no symptoms at all.

Infected male genitals often don’t have any symptoms. For those that do, the tip of the penis may be itchy or irritated, and the urethra may emit a slightly smelly discharge. Untreated, trich can spread through the urethra into the testicles, bladder, and prostate gland, and cause complications.

How do I get tested?

At a clinic or health care provider’s office, a swab is taken from the vagina. The swab is placed on a slide, which is then put under a microscope. This test is not as reliable for urethral (penis) swab samples.

Can I get rid of it?

Yes. You’ll be prescribed anti-parasitic medications. Don’t have sex with anyone until you’ve finished taking them. When the medications are finished, the trich will be gone. It’s important to have your partner treated at the same time so you don’t become re-infected the next time you have sex together.