Trichomonas infection

Never heard of it? Trichomonas, or trich, may not sound familiar, but this nasty little STI is more common than you think. So what is trich? Read on to find out.

Girl with stomach pain

Sometimes ignoring it is not an option

What is trich?

It may sound like an Italian salad, but trichomonas, trichomoniasis, or trich (pronounced trick), is a contagious sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a tiny parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis (TV). It’s passed on through unprotected sex and in rare cases by sharing sex toys.

What are the symptoms of trichomonas?

Generally, the symptoms are much worse for women and can be similar to gonorrhoea. A yellowy/greenish smelly vaginal discharge is one of the first signs, followed by soreness, inflammation and itching in and around the vagina; pain when peeing; pain when having sex; and pain in the lower abdominal region.

For men, there may be a discharge from the penis; pain or a burning sensation when peeing; and, on rare occasions, inflammation of the bellend or foreskin.

How quickly do symptoms of a trichomonas infection develop?

Like many other STIs, there may be no symptoms at all – especially in men – but for those who do develop symptoms they normally appear from three to 21 days after infection.

Can I get tested for trichomonas if I don’t have any symptoms?

A trichomonas infection will show up on a test within a few days of having sex with an infected partner, so you can get tested for trichomonas even if you don’t have symptoms. Sometimes it’s possible to get your results straight away, but most clinics have a 10-day turnaround.

How is a trichomonas infection treated?

Despite the unpronounceable name trichomonas is a common sexually transmitted disease that’s easily treatable. You’ll need to go to your nearest genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic or see your doctor (GP) for a swab test; sometimes it can be picked up in women on a smear test. A lot of people infected with trichomonas also have gonorrhoea, so you may be tested for this too.

Caught early, it can be treated with antibiotics (usually Metronidazole) either as a single dose or a longer course (up to a week). To avoid re-infection, any sexual partners should also be treated.

Can you ignore trichomonas?

Despite the fishy discharge, itching and soreness associated with trichomonas ignoring it doesn’t pose any major health risks. In fact, in some cases the infection clears up by itself. But predicting whether or not it will clear by itself is a guessing game that’s probably not worth playing.

Pregnant women risk passing trichomoniasis onto their baby if they don’t seek treatment. For men, it can cause prostatitis (an infection of the prostate gland), but this is extremely rare.

How to prevent catching trichomonas

Using a condom or dental dam every time you have any kind of sex — oral, vaginal, anal and using sex toys — can protect you from a trichomonas infection. Check out our safe sex resources here to find out more.

If you’re sexually active it’s best to get tested regularly to keep you and your partner(s) safe. Search for a sexual health clinic near you here. For more information, FPA offers sexual health advice. For their Northern Ireland helpline call 0345 122 8687. You can also share your thoughts about STIs on our discussion boards.

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015