What is Trichomonas?
Trichomonas, is a contagious STI caused by a tiny parasite Trichomonas vaginalis (TV). Infecting the vagina and urethra in women, and the urethra and sometimes the prostate gland in men, it's passed on through unprotected sex, and in rare cases by sharing sex toys. It's more common in women than men, hence the name 'vaginalis', and used to be a well-known cause of vaginal discharge and intense vulval soreness, but it's now creeping into boys' bits, too.
In the UK there's an estimated 6000 new cases each year.
What are the symptoms of trichomonas?
Like many other STIs, there may be no symptoms at all - especially in men - but for those who do they normally appear from three to 21 days after infection. Generally, the symptoms are much worse for women and can be similar to gonorrhoea. An unpleasant 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 lower abdominal tenderness.
For men, there may be a discharge from the penis; pain or a burning sensation when peeing; and, on rare occasions, inflammation of the glans (head of penis) or foreskin.
What does the discharge look like?
In women this can be yellow or greenish, thin, frothy and have a musty or fishy smell. In men it can be thin and whiteish.
How is trichomonas treated?
If you notice anything unusual 'downstairs' contact us for an appointment, at which one of our fully qualified private GP's will exam you and if necessary carry out a suitable test. The test for trichomonas is a straight forward 'swab' test. A lot of people infected with trichomonas are also found to have gonorrhoea as well, so the GP may test for this, too.
Treatment is simple and involves taking antibiotic tablets, either as a single dose or a longer course (up to a week). To avoid re-infection, any sexual partners should also be treated.
What if I ignore it?
It doesn't pose any major health risks. In fact, in some cases the infection clears up by itself. However, it may take several weeks and there's no way of predicting whether it will clear or not and you may find the discharge unpleasant.
There is a risk, however, of passing trichomoniasis onto your baby if you pick it up whilst you're pregnant. For men, it can cause prostatinitis (an infection of the prostate gland), but this is extremely rare.