Trichomoniasis is an infection of the sex organs that spreads by sexual contact. It’s one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or diseases (STDs). It affects both sexes, but is found most often in women aged 16 to 35 years. In the United States, about 2 million women become infected each year. Infection isn’t fatal but can lead to complications, such as infertility; infection of the vaginal skin tissue (cellulitis); and, in men, blockage of the urethra (the tube in the penis that carries urine out of the body). Infection during pregnancy may lead to premature labor and low birth weight.
The cause is the single-celled, microscopic parasite named Trichomonas vaginalis, found worldwide.
Women can have no symptoms (asymptomatic) or many symptoms. Typical symptoms include foul-smelling or frothy green discharge from the vagina, vaginal itching, and vaginal redness. Other symptoms are pain during sex, lower abdominal discomfort, and need to urinate.
Most men don’t have symptoms. When symptoms occur, they most often are discharge from the urethra, need to urinate, and a burning feeling during urination.
In women the health care provider will do a pelvic examination to collect samples from the vagina for study. Diagnosis is confirmed by finding the parasite in the sample with a microscope. Growing the parasite in a culture is another way to diagnose infection. Culture results may take 3 to 7 days. Blood tests can also be done to diagnose the parasite.
In men, the health care provider collects samples from the urethra and looks for the parasite with a microscope. The parasite is harder to find in men.
The health care provider will prescribe antibiotics for treatment. Metronidazole is the best one and can be taken for 7 days. Both partners should be treated at the same time. Metronidazole can cross the placenta, so it isn’t usually used during pregnancy. Side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, metallic taste in the mouth, seizures, and peripheral neuropathy. People should not drink alcohol while taking metronidazole, because flushing, headache, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting may occur.
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