Most of the time we hear about sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, we hear about viruses and bacteria. Trichomoniasis is different however, being a protozoan parasite. This parasite is actually a small organism that can move around and must consume nutrition from its host. Thus it infects people to get inside their bodily systems, then feeds off their resources.
If that sounds disgusting, we don’t blame you. However, it is critical to know the symptoms to avoid failing to treat it. Like other diseases that cause inflammation and irritation (such as chlamydia or herpes), having trichomoniasis can make it easier to get more serious diseases such as HIV. Any time your skin is inflamed, cracked, weepy, blistered or bleeding, it’s easier to contract such diseases and pass them on to the next partner. For obvious reasons, even if “trich” itself isn’t that serious, it’s critical you get rid of it as soon as possible.
Luckily, trich is highly curable, which we will discuss below. But first, how common is it?
The Prevalence of Trichomoniasis
Insofar as there can be good news regarding an STD, there is actually quite a bit to celebrate when it comes to this one.
“Trichomoniasis is the most common curable STD,” explains the Centers for Disease Control. “In the United States, an estimated 3.7 million people have the infection. However, only about 30% develop any symptoms of trichomoniasis. Infection is more common in women than in men. Older women are more likely than younger women to have been infected with trichomoniasis.” (1)
This is good news for several reasons:
- The disease is easily curable with a single dose of oral antibiotics, taken the same day you see your doctor for an STD test
- Pregnant women can take this medication, so you don’t have to worry if you’re carrying a child
- Women are likelier to go to the doctor than men, so it’s lucky that they are the more commonly affected (again, if that can be called lucky)
- Older women are also more likely to handle their health than younger women, so the statistics are also positive in that respect
- Thirty percent of people report symptoms
While this last might not seem like such great news, 30 percent is actually significant. Many diseases have much lower rates of symptoms manifesting, which is probably why almost 90 percent of people have no idea they have herpes, for instance. (2) Moreover, according to the same source, only 12 percent of people got tested annually as of the date of the report.
In the sense that it alerts more people to its presence, trichomoniasis is actually one of the friendlier of the STDs. Not that you would feel that way if you had any of the symptoms, of course.
Symptoms of Trich
Despite how common trich is, most people aren’t aware of its existence. As of 2013, only 22 percent of women were even aware the disease existed, let alone that they have it themselves. (A telling commentary on our state of sex education is that only 79 percent of women were familiar with HIV as of the same year). (3)
Moreover, says Planned Parenthood, “About 7 out of 10 people with trich have no signs of the infection at all. When the infection is in a penis, it’s very unlikely to cause symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms of trich are so mild that you don’t even notice them, or you think it’s a different infection (like a yeast infection or a UTI). So the only way to find out for sure if you have it is to get tested.” (4)
That makes it super important you be aware of the symptoms of trichomoniasis if they do arise. That way, you can catch it early and avoid passing it on to other partners. These symptoms include:
- Abnormal looking or smelling vaginal discharge
- Blood in vaginal discharge
- Pain and swelling around the genitals
- Itching and irritation
- Pain during sex
Again, note that these symptoms are far more likely to manifest in women than in men. Men are likely to miss the disease altogether if they don’t get tested regularly. Also note that trich is spread in all sexual fluids, so if there’s any chance you have had sex with someone who might be infected, it’s critical to get tested – especially considering the potential complications.
Complications of Trichomoniasis
In addition to being likelier to contract or pass on HIV, people with trich are likelier to suffer complications during pregnancy. As with many STDs, “Pregnant women with trichomoniasis are more likely to have their babies too early (preterm delivery). Also, babies born to infected mothers are more likely to have a low birth weight (less than 5.5 pounds).” (5) That makes it very important to get tested regularly, otherwise you or your female partner later in life could suffer a serious heartbreak.
When and How Should You Test for Trich?
The question of when and how to test for any single disease is really a question of when to test for all of them. The answer to that is manifold:
- Every time you switch partners, ideally before you both sleep together
- If you have a sexual encounter while not in full control of your faculties, such as when drunk or high
- If you are pregnant
- If you are told from a previous partner you need to get tested
- Until you have settled with a single partner, you are monogamous, and you have both had clean reports
Until that last happens (and it may never happen), it’s important to get tested at least once a year. Many people hate getting tested, however, and avoid it for that reason. If that’s you, we have good news: It’s now possible to reliably test for more than a dozen STDs in the calm and comfort of your home. You can take an at-home test that will signal any potential issues, and if you get a positive, you can make an appointment with your doctor right away.
Bottom line: Regular screening is an essential part of a healthy sex life and can protect you and your partners from trichomoniasis. For affordable and accurate STD screening in the privacy of your own home, request your STD test kit today.
(1) Trichomoniasis - CDC Fact Sheet. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/trichomonas/stdfact-trichomoniasis.htm
(2) Statistics. (2019). Retrieved from http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/stdsstis/statistics/
(3) Trichomoniasis. (2019). Retrieved from http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/stdsstis/trichomoniasis/
(4) What Are the Symptoms of Trichomoniasis? (2019). Retrieved from https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/stds-hiv-safer-sex/trichomoniasis/what-are-symptoms-trichomoniasis
(5) Trichomoniasis - CDC Fact Sheet. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/trichomonas/stdfact-trichomoniasis.htm