Trichomoniasis or trich is a sexually transmitted disease caused by one-celled protozoa called Trichomonas vaginalis. This organism causes the infection of the urethra in men while infection occurs in both the urethra and vagina in women. A person cannot contract trichomoniasis vaginalis by physical contact such as hugging or kissing as the organism is primarily transmitted through sexual contact involving the genitals. The organism typically infects the squamous epithelial tissues of the genital tract.
Several studies have been carried out on the association between trichomonas vaginalis and other organisms that cause similar infections, one particular study demonstrated the association between Trichomonas vaginalis and vaginitis, candidiasis, and bacterial vaginosis. While another distinct study revealed the association between maternal trichomonas vaginalis and intellectual disability in children. Although rare, Trichomonas vaginalis could be transmitted prenatally and cause respiratory and vaginal infections in neonates. Having trichomoniasis can mean one is already infected with other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) which may include Chlamydia and both are curable however, treatment may differ. It is important therefore to have been tested before treatment begins so as to know the specific treatment required.
Can You Get Trichomoniasis From A Toilet Seat?
This is one question that many have been asking, the simple answer to this question is YES, toilet seats can spread Trichomonas vaginalis as well as many other sexually transmitted diseases. A study published in the Indian Journal of Sexually Transmitted Disease asserted that an extensive literature search showed that the nonsexual transmission of trichomonas can occur through fomites like toilet seats, swimming pools, and wet towels. Read: Can You Get Trichomoniasis From A Toilet Seat?
Who is a risk for trichomoniasis?
An estimated 3.7 million people in the United States are infected with Trichomonas vaginalis. Individuals with the greatest risk of contracting this infection are:
- Persons with multiple sexual partners
- Persons who do not use latex condoms or practice safe sex
- Individuals whose partners are already infected with Trichomonas vaginalis
- Older post-menopausal women are prone to the trichomonas organism because of estrogen deficiency and the change in their vaginal acidity.
Why Do I Have Trichomoniasis but My Partner Doesn’t?
Trichomoniasis infection cannot be used as a definite benchmark for infidelity or unfaithfulness even though the disease is transmitted primarily by sexual activity. Even if both partners are faithful, a Trichomonas vaginalis infection acquired prior to the relationship can persist if left untreated. This is why it is advised to see your doctor for a follow-up test for trichomoniasis at least three months after the completion of your treatment. The reinfection rate for women is almost as high as 17 percent in the three months after treatment. It is also important to note that reinfection is possible even if your partners were treated as well. An estimated 1 in 5 persons gets infected again within 3 months after receiving treatment. In a cross-sectional study conducted in Zambia, adolescent virgin girls showed a high prevalence of trichomoniasis, as a result of sharing bathing water. This explains why you get trichomoniasis if no one cheats. READ: Blue Wafflé Disease: WebMD Separates Facts From Fiction
Symptoms of Trichomonas Vaginalis Infection
Most men and many women with trich don’t manifest any symptoms, and about 70% of infected people do not have any signs or symptoms. But quite a number of infected persons do have signs or symptoms. They can range from mild irritation to severe inflammation and burning sensation. Symptoms may come and go and some get symptoms about 3 to 26 days after being infected while others do not develop these symptoms until much later. Symptoms of trichomoniasis are similar to those of other sexually transmitted diseases hence, they can be diagnosed by laboratory tests and physical examination.
Trichomoniasis Symptoms in Men
- Urge to urinate frequently
- Urethral discharge
- Pain/burning sensation when urinating
Trichomoniasis Symptoms in Women
- Genital itching
- Genital swelling
- Vaginal discharge with a foul smell
- Vaginal bleeding/spotting
- Urge to urinate frequently
- Pain when urinating
How Long Does It Take For Trich to Show Up?
The incubation period for a Trich infection or Trichomonas vaginalis infection is typically between 5 to 28 days, during which time the infection develops and begins to show symptoms if any. This window period can vary from person to person. The parasite is easily spread during this time and can return false-negative test results during this period. Testing for trich can be carried out without concern for false negatives at any time beyond the period of incubation. Trichomoniasis can be easily cured and because the disease does not always show symptoms you are advised to get tested if you think you might have been exposed.
Treatment of Trich Infections
Treatment with 5-nitroimidazoles
For nearly four decades, metronidazole has been the treatment of choice for trichomonas vaginalis. Metronidazole belongs to the 5-nitroimidazole drug family and is reported to have about a 90% success rate in curing trichomonas vaginalis along with its related compounds such as tinidazole and secnidazole. Treatment is also safe for pregnant women, patients are advised not to drink alcohol within 2 hours after taking this medication. To avoid being re-infected, patients should ensure that their partners are also treated and by abstaining from all sexual activity. Individuals are also encouraged to use latex condoms during sexual intercourse to reduce the chances of contracting trichomonas and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Trichomoniasis Complications If Left Untreated
Trichomoniasis may rage on for many years and if left untreated, it can lead to serious damage to the health of the infected individual.
Trichomoniasis in Men
In men, it may cause damage to the bladder and prostate.
Trichomoniasis in Women
In women, a prolonged infection can cause inflammation of the fallopian tube, and damage to tissues of the cervix which poses a great risk to the female reproductive system. Trichomoniasis in pregnant women has been known to cause premature birth and low body weight in babies.
Trichomoniasis and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases
A trichomonas infection can make it easier to contract other sexually transmitted infections. Genital inflammation caused by trichomoniasis can increase your risk of getting HIV, along with other STIs. It also becomes easier for you to spread the virus to someone else when you have trichomonas. Other conditions such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and bacterial vaginosis often occur with trichomonas. Untreated infections can result in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Complications of PID include:
- Fallopian tube blockage due to scar tissue
- Chronic abdominal pain
- Pelvic pain
Unlike most sexually transmitted diseases, Trichomonas species can survive for some period of time (hours) outside a living system on infected objects and can be transmitted by sharing the following:
- Toilet seats.
- Bodily fluids
- Damp towels
- Contaminated bedding
Pictures of Trichomoniasis
In general, this disease is more common during the period of greatest sexual activity and is believed to be a sexually transmitted disease. But, an extensive scientific literature search showed that nonsexual transmission of Trichomonas vaginalis can occur through fomites like towels, toilet seats, and swimming pools.
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