Trichomoniasis - Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Did you know that there are sexual diseases that can make you more prone to getting HIV? Trichomoniasis is an STD that, although it does not have serious consequences for our health, makes us more likely to contract the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV through sex. It is worth avoiding its contagion, especially if we take into account that, according to the World Health Organization, 143 million people contract this infection every year worldwide.

If you are active sexually, you must know how trichomoniasis is spread, what its symptoms and treatment are. But, in addition, it is good that you keep in mind that this infection can be prevented.

What is it?

Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease or STD caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. Symptoms of the disease can vary and are not as obvious, so most men and women who have it do not know they are infected.

How is trichomoniasis transmitted?

The parasite which causes trichomoniasis lives inside the host

The parasite that causes trichomoniasis is very fragile since it cannot live outside its host; therefore, it cannot be transmitted in swimming pools or public bathrooms. Neither can it survive in the mouth or the rectum, and its contagion is, therefore, by contact of the penis with the vagina or in female homosexual relations in vulva-vulva contact. Very rarely, it could be transmitted through damp towels or cloth.

The incubation period of the infection varies between 6 and 20 days. The infection has two different phases; in the first, the parasite adheres to the vaginal mucosa and colonizes it. In the second, it exercises its power to produce disease. The first phase can have a variable duration so that the woman may not find out that she has trichomoniasis and not suffer any type of symptoms. When the second phase occurs, the symptoms are bothersome. The parasite affects the vagina, urethra, and urinary bladder.

Symptoms 

Symptoms are different in men and women. Men are usually asymptomatic, and the infection can clear up on its own within a few weeks. At other times they may present some signs.

Symptoms in men -

  • Burning after urination or ejaculation
  • Itching in the urethra
  • Slight discharge from the urethra

Symptoms in women -

  • Intense vulvar and vaginal itching
  • Increased vaginal discharge that is usually greenish or grayish-yellow in color and foul-smelling
  • Pain when urinating
  • Pain with sexual intercourse

The discomfort usually worsens with menstruation and improves somewhat before it. On examination, the vulva appears normal or is slightly red. When the doctor inserts a speculum to see inside the vagina, small red bumps or ulcers can be seen, both on the vaginal walls and on the cervix, as well as a characteristic discharge that will guide the diagnosis. 

Diagnosis

The diagnosis is usually made with a history, and physical examination and complementary tests confirm it. A flow sample can be taken, and the organism observed under a microscope. More frequent is the performance of a vaginal culture, which consists of obtaining a discharge sample that is left in the laboratory for a few days in the appropriate environment. Then, it is observed if any microorganism has grown.

On some occasions, the diagnosis can be made in routine vaginal cytology, especially in women who do not have any discomfort, those who are in the first phase of the infection.

Treatment

Metronidazol - an antibiotic used in the treatment of Trichomoniasis

The treatment of trichomoniasis is antibiotic. The most frequently used is metronidazole. Usually, a single dose of 2 grams or two doses of 1 gram 12 hours apart is indicated. A 500 mg treatment can also be administered every 12 hours for 7 days, but as it is long and cumbersome, it is more difficult to comply with, and that is why it is usually kept for cases in which the short treatment has not worked. Metronidazole also exists in a vaginal form, but it does not usually work well to eliminate trichomonas.

To avoid reinfections, it is also essential to administer antibiotic treatment to the couple. If both perform the treatment correctly, the prognosis is excellent, and the cure rate is very high. Sexual intercourse should also be avoided until both partners are completely healed.

This infection does not produce memory in the body's defenses, so it can be contracted more than once in a lifetime and requires treatment each time.

It is very important not to consume alcoholic beverages while the treatment lasts and until 48 after its completion. Drinking alcohol while taking metronidazole can cause an interaction with severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.

The use of metronidazole in pregnancy is disputable. At least during the first trimester, it should be avoided and postponed to the second or third trimester. If there is a chance you could be pregnant, you should have a test before starting the antibiotic.

Consequences

Trichomoniasis is associated with other sexually transmitted diseases; it has been scientifically studied and proven that approximately 40% of cases with this disease contract other venereal diseases. The probability of catching the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has also been seen to increase, something of great concern.

Like all sexually transmitted infections, trichomoniasis increases the chances of contracting other diseases. In pregnant women, the rate of preterm birth increases slightly if they do not receive proper treatment.

How does it affect pregnancy?

Pregnant woman holding her bump

Pregnant women could be at higher risk when contracting Trichomonas infection. This disease is known to increase the risk of premature delivery and the baby to have low body weight problems.

There is also a very high possibility that the baby will get Trichomonas without the need for a sexual route; that is why great care must be taken in these cases.

Prevention

The prevention of sexually transmitted diseases always involves avoiding sexual intercourse without the use of a condom. The condom is the best weapon to prevent it and other STDs.


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