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What is Trichomoniasis?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 18, 2024
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Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), caused by a single celled parasite which causes inflammation in the genital and urinary tracts. Women are more susceptible to infection, while men can carry the infection without displaying noticeable symptoms. Like other sexually transmitted infections, the surest way to avoid the disease is to abstain from sexual activity, but the risk can be greatly reduced by using barrier protection and only engaging in sexual activity with committed partners.

The organism responsible for trichomoniasis is a protozoan known as a trichomonad. When the protozoan colonizes the genital and urinary tracts, it causes an inflammation which can create an itching or burning sensation. Women who are infected may experience unpleasant vaginal discharges with a strange smell or foamy appearance. In men, infection generally sets in along the urethra, creating an unpleasant sensation during urination. The condition is treated with a course of drugs; typically only one large dose is needed to eliminate the infection.

Women are most vulnerable to trichomoniasis infections during their menstrual periods, although they can potentially be infected at any time. It can take one to three weeks for symptoms to emerge, although women are capable of passing the infection to other partners before the symptoms appear. Most women first notice the symptoms in the form of uncomfortable urination and sexual activity.

While someone is infected with trichomoniasis, his or her risk of contracting HIV is increased, because the infection irritates the already vulnerable tissue of the genital tract, creating an opportunity for HIV to move in. This infection has also been linked with low birth weight in infants, so pregnant women who suspect they have the condition should seek medical treatment.

This sexually transmitted infection is also known as “trich,” and it is relatively common. Thanks to effective drugs, trichomoniasis is fairly easy to treat, and it appears to have no lingering effects. In the event someone is diagnosed with trichomoniasis or another STI, it is considered polite to contact recent sexual partners to alert them and to suggest that they receive treatment. Some public health departments may offer this service for clients who are embarrassed about contacting former partners.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon949194 — On May 04, 2014

This STI is very uncomfortable. I did not know I had a problem until I had uncontrolled itching with the discharge that was yellowish. It did take about three or four weeks to actually start effective and another two or three weeks to get a doctors appointment a very discomforting and aggravating. My partner thought I got it from someone else because he knew we hadn't slept together in over a month, but he did say he would get tested.

By anon935443 — On Feb 25, 2014

This a great site, and provides understandable information. Thanks

By Handycell — On Jan 21, 2014
I was diagnosed with Trichomoniasis about a week ago and I’m currently being treated. However, in my case it wasn’t an STI since I’m abstinent. I’m actually pretty sure I got it while I was on a skiing trip with a group of friends. My doctor said that if we shared towels, I could have gotten it from the towel if someone else also was infected. I remembered using a friend’s towel during the trip, but I didn’t think much about it at the time. Man, do I regret it now! However, this has me a bit nervous about contracting it in other places like the gym.

Obviously, it would be nice to think that they clean the towels properly between uses, but I’m worried I could possibly get this same infection from a towel at the gym. Is this possible? What is the likelihood of that happening?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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