What Is Trichomoniasis? What Causes It?

You don’t have to search very hard to find a whole lot of reminders to practice safe sex. Now you can add trichomoniasis to your list. Trichomoniasis, or trich, is a very common STD. It can be a real jolt to find out you have it, but there’s some good news: It’s usually not serious and can be cured in most cases.

Trich is caused by a tiny, one-celled parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. Anyone who’s sexually active can get it. It affects women more than men, and older women tend to get it more than younger ones. And, it affects African-American women more than white or Hispanic women.

Most men and many women with trich don’t show any symptoms. But if you or one of your sex partners has it, it’s important to get treatment. Trich raises the chances that you could get or spread other STDS including HIV.

How Would I Get Trich?

You get trich from having sex with someone who has it. Typically, trich is passed between the penis and vagina, and it doesn’t matter if a man ejaculates or not -- it can be spread just through contact. Women who have sex with women can also get trich because it can spread through vaginal contact, as well.

Women typically get the infection in their vulva, vagina, cervix, or urethra. Men usually get it just inside their penis in the urethra, but they may also get it in their prostate. You don’t typically get it in other parts of your body, such as your hands, mouth, or anus.

The thing to keep in mind with trich is that you can spread it even if you don’t have any symptoms. That also means you can get it from someone who doesn’t have any symptoms.

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How Can I Lower My Chances of Getting It?

The only way you can totally prevent trich is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. But you can take some steps to lower your chances of getting it:

  • Always use latex condoms, and use them the right way. This helps, but won’t totally protect you because trich can infect areas that a condom doesn’t cover. Also, because you can get trich just through contact, make sure to put the condom on early, before it touches the vagina.
  • For women -- avoid douching. Your vagina has a natural balance of bacteria to keep you healthy. When you douche, you remove some of those helpful bacteria, which can raise your chances of getting an STD.
  • Stick with just one sex partner who’s been tested and doesn’t have any STDs. If that doesn’t work for you, think about limiting your number of sex partners.
  • Talk openly with your sex partners about your sexual histories and potential risk of infection. This can help you make the best choice for yourself.

Can Trich Lead to Other Problems?

If you don’t get it treated, trich can cause some other issues. For starters, if you do get symptoms, they can make sex and peeing just plain uncomfortable.

Trich can also increase your risk of getting or spreading other STDs including HIV. And if you already have HIV, trich may make you more likely to pass it to someone else. Because of this risk, doctors suggest that women with HIV get tested for trich at least once a year.

If you’re pregnant, trich may lead to having your baby earlier than expected. Your baby may also have a low birth weight, which can raise the chances that your baby will have health or developmental problems. It doesn’t happen often, but your baby may also get trich when passing through the birth canal. You can get treated for trich while pregnant, so talk to your doctor about the best options for you.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 05, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: “Trichomoniasis -- CDC Fact Sheet.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Trichomoniasis.”

Medscape: “Trichomoniasis.”

WomensHealth.gov: “Trichomoniasis.”

Mayo Clinic: “Trichomoniasis.”

 

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