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Trichomoniasis is also known as ‘trich’. It’s an STD that affects both women and men, but women are more likely to have symptoms.
In rare cases, untreated trich can cause infertility in women.
If you know you’re infected with trich, it’s easy to treat. In rare cases, if untreated in women, it can lead to infertility.
How do you get trichomoniasis?
You can get trich through unprotected vaginal sex (penis-to-vagina, vulva-to-vulva). What this means is that women can get trich from an infected man or woman. And men can only get it from an infected woman. You cannot get trich from oral or anal sex.
How can you protect yourself against trichomoniasis?
1. Always use condoms.
2. If you’ve got any unusual discharge, sores, or pain when you pee get tested for trich and other STDs.
These symptoms are signs that something is wrong. Also let your partner know, so he or she can get tested and treated too. Otherwise, you may unwittingly become re-infected with trich.
3.If you’re a woman, get screened for trich when you get a PAP smear.
What are the signs that you’ve got trichomoniasis?
Most people don’t have any signs of infection with trichomoniasis - commonly known as trich. Men more often than women don’t have any symptoms.
If you get symptoms, generally they’ll appear within one week after you're infected.
Trichomoniasis infects the vagina, urethra (the tube where pee comes out), bladder, and cervix (the neck of the womb) in women. In men, it only infects the urethra and under the foreskin.
Image: Trichomoniasis in the vagina
Remember, if you have trichomoniasis it may look totally different from this photo! If you’re in any doubt, go to the doctor or a clinic.
Trichomoniasis symptoms in women include:
- Yellow-green or milky vaginal discharge
- Strong vaginal odour
- Pain when you pee
- Pain when you have sex
- Itchiness or irritation of the vagina
- Swollen labia and vulva
Sometimes these symptoms can be worse around your period. It’s unlikely that trich will go away by itself. So if you’ve got symptoms go and seek treatment. Also, let your partner know, so that he or she can go and get tested and treated for it too.
What happens if you don’t get treated and you’re a woman?
If you don’t get treated, you’ve got a higher chance of getting HIV if you have unprotected sex with someone who’s HIV positive. If you’re pregnant, you’re more likely to give birth prematurely or give birth to an underweight baby.
Trichomoniasis symptoms in men include:
- Discharge from the penis, usually first thing in the morning
- Irritation on the head of the penis and around the urethra opening
- Pain when you pee
It’s unlikely that trich will go away by itself. So if you’ve got symptoms go seek treatment.
What happens if you don’t get treated and you’re a man?
You can pass trichomoniasis to your partner or re-infect her. Your infection may not go away and can cause infections in your urethra.
How do you get tested for trich?
For women, your health care provider may swab the inside of your vagina or ask for a urine sample. You can also ask for a trich test when you’re getting a routine cervical smear, or PAP test, for cervical cancer. Since it’s not commonly performed with the PAP, you’ll have to specifically ask for it.
For men, your health care provider may insert a swab into your urethra or ask for a urine sample to test for trich.
How do you get rid of trichomoniasis?
You can get rid of trich with a single dose of oral antibiotics. Usually, the antibiotics prescribed are either metronidazole or tinidazole. In some cases, you may be prescribed a longer course of antibiotics to get rid of the infection.
To avoid re-infection, it’s important that you and your partner both get tested and treated for trich. You’ll be advised to avoid having sex until both you and your partner have completed your treatment and have no symptoms of infection.
You’ll also be told not to drink alcohol during your treatment to avoid unpleasant reactions with your antibiotics.
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