What is trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis is an infection caused by a parasite that can occur in both men and women, but is more common in women. In men, the infection occurs in the tube that carries urine out of the body (the urethra) as well as in the prostate. In women, the infection occurs most often in the vagina. In most cases, the infection is transmitted during sex with an infected person. In women, however, in addition to contracting trichomoniasis through sexual contact, the infection can develop if another, pre-existing infection is present in the vagina.

In most cases, trichomoniasis is not serious. It can be treated and cured.

What are the symptoms of trichomoniasis?

In women, symptoms include:

  • Heavy discharge from the vagina
  • Foamy discharge (70% of cases have thin discharge)
  • Yellow, greenish or gray discharge
  • Discharge that has a bad odor
  • Painful sex
  • Pain when you urinate, urinary frequency
  • Itching near vagina, burning in vagina

In men, symptoms include:

Usually asymptomatic and may resolve spontaneously within 10 days.

  • White discharge from the penis (rarely)
  • Pain when you urinate (rarely)

You can have trichomoniasis without having symptoms. Most men who get the infection do not have symptoms. Infected people who do not have symptoms can still spread the infection.

How can I know if I have trichomoniasis?

Your health care provider can tell you if you have trichomoniasis. He or she will examine you and take a sample of fluid (from the vagina or penis).

The fluid will be viewed under a microscope. In women, the parasite that causes the infection can be seen under a microscope. The vaginal pH is elevated- >4.5. In many cases, a woman is told right away if she has trichomoniasis. In men, the parasite is harder to see in a man's fluid sample and is impossible to detect if present in a man's prostate.

How is trichomoniasis treated?

Trichomoniasis is treated using medicines that kill the infection. The most common medicine ordered for trichomoniasis is called metronidazole. Common brand names for this medicine are Flagyl and Protostat. Tinidazole is in this same class of medication and also can be used.

Should my sex partner be treated?

Yes. Your sex partner (or partners) also needs to be treated. Since trichomoniasis can be spread during sex, you can get the infection again if your partner is infected and not treated.

Does the medication have side effects?

Yes. You may have:

  • A sick stomach
  • A metal taste in your mouth
  • Heartburn

Don't drink alcohol while you are taking metronidazole. You can become very sick. Call your health care provider if you have these or any other side effects.

Should I take the medication if I am pregnant?

Probably not. All of the risks of treating trichomoniasis during pregnancy are not yet known. Tell your health care provider if you are pregnant. Also, let your health care provider know if you think you might be pregnant. You and your health care provider should discuss whether or not the infection should be treated. It may still be OK for you to get medication, but prior discussion is needed. Intravaginal metronidazole can be used, but not as effective.

How can I prevent spreading trichomoniasis?

  • Get tested and treated
  • Use a condom during sex
  • Tell your sex partner and have him or her get treatment
  • Stop having sex until you are better

When should I call my doctor?

You should call your health care provider anytime if:

  • Your vaginal discharge changes color, becomes heavier or smells different
  • You notice itching, burning, swelling or soreness around the vagina
  • Your partner is infected.

© Copyright 1995-2012 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 9/17/2012...#4696

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