How Do I Know If I Have Trichomoniasis?

Some diseases give you clear signs and symptoms to let you know they’ve arrived -- like a telltale rash or a burning fever. But trichomoniasis, also called trich, isn’t one of them. Most men and many women who have it don’t show any symptoms. And even if you do, you won’t know for sure that it’s trich until you get tested. 

Doctors aren’t sure why some people get symptoms and others don’t. If you do get symptoms, they typically show up within 5 to 28 days of when you get trich, but they could show up later, too. And sometimes, the symptoms come and go.

What Are the Symptoms in Women?

One of the main symptoms is a change in vaginal discharge -- fluid that comes out of the vagina. Normally, vaginal discharge is clear or whitish and may vary in texture. With trich, you may notice changes such as:

  • Difference in color --it may still be clear or whitish, but could also look gray, green, or yellow
  • Foul-smelling discharge
  • More discharge than usual
  • Thin or foamy discharge

You may also have these signs and symptoms:

  • Bleeding after sex
  • Burning, itching, soreness or tenderness in the genital area and inner thighs
  • Pain or discomfort when you pee or during sex
  • Pain in your lower belly, though this isn’t common
  • Peeing more often than usual
  • Redness in the genital area
  • Swollen vulva or labia

What Are the Symptoms in Men?

Most men don’t get any symptoms, and if they do they sometimes just go away within 10 days. If you do get them, signs and symptoms may include:

  • Burning after you pee or ejaculate 
  • Itching or irritation just inside the penis
  • Pain and swelling in the scrotum
  • Problems peeing
  • Swollen prostate
  • White discharge from your penis

When Should I See My Doctor?

If you have symptoms of trich -- unusual vaginal discharge or genital itching and soreness -- see your doctor right away.

If one of your sexual partners has trich, see your doctor even if you don’t have any symptoms.

Also, see your doctor if your symptoms come back after you got treatment for trich.

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How Should I Get Ready for My Appointment?

Before you go to the doctor, you might want to write down some notes, such as:

  • STDs you or your sex partners have had in the past, if any
  • Symptoms and when they started  
  • The number of sex partners you’ve had in the past few years

Also, it helps for women to avoid vaginal sprays and douching for 24 hours before the appointment.

How Will My Doctor Test for It?

Women may first get a pelvic exam. Then, men or women will get one of a few different tests.

For a test called a wet prep, your doctor takes a sample -- vaginal fluid if you’re a woman, pee if you’re a man -- and checks it under a microscope. This is a common test, but not always the most accurate.

Another test is a culture. Your doctor takes a urine sample or uses a swab to get fluid from the vagina or urethra. Then this fluid is placed on a culture medium that may make it easier to see the trich parasites. The drawback is that it can take up to 7 days to get your results.

There are newer tests for trich as well, which are very accurate and can give results within 24 hours. Your doctor takes a sample of vaginal fluid for one of these two tests:

  • Direct fluorescent antibody (DFA) test looks for trich antigens. These are substances that mean you have trich.
  • DNA test checks for trich.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 5, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: “Trichomoniasis.”

CDC: “Trichomoniasis - CDC Fact Sheet.”

KidsHealth: “Vaginal Discharge: What’s Normal, What’s Not,” “Trichomoniasis.”

WomensHealth.gov: “Trichomoniasis.”

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment: “Trichomoniasis.”

American Sexual Health Association: “Trichomoniasis.”

Lab Tests Online: “Trichomoniasis Testing.”

Medscape: “Trichmoniasis Workup.”

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