Plain Talk About Trichomoniasis

One of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) affecting both men and women is trichomoniasis, though men tend not to show symptoms of infection. Trichomoniasis is the most common of the curable STD’s affecting young, sexually active women. Every year, some 7.4 million cases are reported to occur in men and women.

Protozoan Parasite

Trichomoniasis stems from infection with Trichomonas vaginalis, a single-celled protozoan parasite. In women, it is the vagina that is the most likely site of infection with this parasite, while men tend to get the infection in their urethras. The urethra is the body’s pathway for urine. The parasite enters the vagina or urethra during sexual contact. This can be penis to vagina contact during heterosexual intercourse, where one partner is infected, or through vulva to vulva contact between lesbian partners, one of whom is infected. The vulva is the outer female genital area, outside of the vagina. While women can contract the trichomoniasis infection by contact with infected men or women, in general, men get the infection only from women.

Burning Sensation

Though most men don’t show signs or symptoms of trichomoniasis, some may feel some irritation inside of the penis, a bit of discharge, or perhaps a burning sensation after ejaculation or urination. Even when men experience such symptoms they tend to be of a temporary nature.

Women who show signs of a trichomoniasis infection may have a frothy, greenish-yellow vaginal discharge, as well as a strong smell emanating from the vagina. There can be pain during urination and intercourse and some itching and inflammation may affect the woman’s genitals. Less often, there may be some lower abdominal pain. The symptoms show up within 5-28 days of contact with the infected partner.

HIV Vulnerability

Any type of genital inflammation can make a woman more vulnerable to the HIV infection and trichomoniasis is no exception to this rule, should a woman be exposed to the virus. It’s also true that an HIV infected woman who has trichomoniasis as well, is more liable to pass on the HIV virus to her partners. Another issue concerns pregnant women who contract trichomoniasis, since the parasite increases the risk of premature delivery and low birth weight of less than 5.5 pounds.

Physicians must perform both a physical examination and a laboratory test to diagnose trichomoniasis. It’s a tricky process to diagnose the condition in men, whereas a pelvic examination of a woman with trichomoniasis will show that the vaginal wall or cervix is riddled with tiny red ulcers.

A single oral dose of metronidazole or tinidazole cures the infection, though men may heal without treatment within a few weeks. It’s better to treat than to wait for the disease to resolve, since an infected male may infect and re-infect his female partner or partners until the infection goes away or is treated. In general, both partners should be treated at one and the same time. Metronidazole can be used during pregnancy. Sexual intercourse should be avoided until the treatment is completed and the parasite is gone. Re-infection is not uncommon.

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