Here are some key facts:
You can read about trichomoniasis in more detail below.
Up to half of men and women with trichomoniasis will not experience any symptoms and when symptoms do appear, they are often easily confused with other STIs.
If symptoms do appear, it will usually be within a month of coming into contact with the infection.
Symptoms in women can include:
Symptoms in men can include:
Trichomoniasis is an infection caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis, or TV. The infection affects the vagina and the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body) in men and women.
It is easily passed on through having unprotected vaginal sex or sharing sex toys.
It is not known whether it can be passed on by genital contact or by transferring discharge from one vagina to another on the fingers.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve had one sexual partner or a hundred, trichomoniasis can affect anyone who is sexually active.
You cannot get trichomoniasis from hugging, kissing, sharing cups, plates or cutlery and toilet seats.
Diagnosing trichomoniasis is not easy as its symptoms are similar to other STIs. If a doctor or nurse examines you, they will be looking for signs of the infection which include red patches on the walls of the vagina and in men, discharge, swelling and soreness from of the head of the penis.
To be sure of what it is, they will also take a swab from your vagina or penis which will be tested for signs of the infection. A swab is taken by brushing a sort of cotton bud or a small plastic loop over the inside of the vagina and head of the penis. It may be a little uncomfortable but shouldn’t be painful. In men, trichomoniasis can also be tested by taking a urine sample.
It may be that the sexual health service that you are visiting is able to do a test which produces the results during the appointment time (this is called 'point of care testing'). Or they make take a swab and then look at the sample under a microscope in order to diagnose it during your visit. Otherwise the swab may be sent away to a lab, in which case the results normally take a week to come back.
If there is a high chance that you have trichomoniasis (for example if your partner has tested positive), you may be given treatment before the results are back. But be aware that even if your partner tested negative, you could still have it.
Trichomoniasis is unlikely to go away by itself but is easily treated with antibiotics. You will often be prescribed an antibiotic called metronidazole which you take for five to seven days.
Metronidazole is very effective but it can make you feel sick and it can’t be mixed with alcohol. In fact, you should wait until 48 hours after finishing your course. The doctor or nurse who prescribes your treatment will advise you further.
Trichomoniasis is not serious unless you are pregnant when it can cause complications. But don’t worry, it can still be safely treated. Make sure you inform the doctor or nurse if you are (or think you are) pregnant so that they can take this into consideration.
If you had symptoms, you should notice improvements quite quickly. You should go back to where you had your test if:
You should also avoid having sex until you have been given the all-clear, to prevent you being re-infected or passing the infection on.
It is important that you tell your current and any recent sexual partners that you are being treated for trichomoniasis, so that they go for treatment too. In the UK it is recommended you tell any sexual partners you have had over the last six months.
The staff at Brook or sexual health clinics can help if you find it hard to talk to them about trichomoniasis.
Some clinics may also offer to contact your partner using what’s called a ‘contact slip’. This is to warn them they may have been exposed and to recommend they get tested and it doesn’t mention your name.
Be mindful of the fact that you will not be protected from trichomoniasis after treatment and you could get it again.
Page last reviewed: September 2015
Next review due: September 2017