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Trichomoniasis, a common sexually transmitted disease you can get over and over again

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D. Alwinsky, M.D. |
Trichomoniasis
Sexual life   Trich increases risk of getting other sexually transmitted infections

Trichomoniasis or trich as it is also known, is a very common sexually transmitted disease (STD) with symptoms that vary. But however common it may be, most people don't know they are infected.

Trichomoniasis is caused by infection with a protozoan parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. Protozoa is a one-celled organism but even with that one cell it may cause us a great trouble.

For example, only in the United States some 3.7 million people have the infection but only about 30% experience symptoms. This infection is more common in women than in men and older women are more likely to have been infected.

Trichomonas vaginalis passes from an infected person to an uninfected person during sex. In women, the most vulnerable group, the most commonly infected parts of the body are vagina and cervix. In men, the most commonly infected body part is the inside of the penis.

During sex, the parasite spreads from one private part to another: from a penis to a vagina, from a vagina to a penis, or from a vagina to another vagina. However, it may also infect other body parts, like anus, which is obviously close to the game, but also the hands and mouth.

Unfortunately, it is unclear why some people get symptoms while others do not.

When symptoms are present, they can range from mild irritation to severe inflammation. However, some 70% of infected people do not have any signs or symptoms and can still pass the infection on to others.

Now here we have an interesting situation again: some patients develop symptoms within 5 to 28 days after being infected, but others may live happily for a much longer period of time without symptoms and infect sexual partners along the way.

Symptoms in women with trichomoniasis are itching, burning, redness or soreness of the genitals; discomfort with urination; and a change in their vaginal discharge that can be clear, white, yellowish, or greenish with an unusual fishy smell.

Symptoms in men are itching or irritation inside the penis; burning after urination or ejaculation; and discharge from the penis.

While unusual discharge is a clear sign that medical help is needed, some itching or even redness are not enough for some people to seek for help.

Without treatment, trichomoniasis can last for months or even years and that leads us to two main problems.

One is obviously increased risk of spreading the infection and another is the risk of getting other sexually transmitted infections.

Trichomoniasis can cause genital inflammation that makes it easier to get infected with HIV, or to pass the HIV virus on to a sex partner.

Pregnant women with trichomoniasis are more likely to have their babies too early and babies born to infected mothers are more likely to have a low birth weight.

When the doctor is in the game, we must say that it is not possible to diagnose trichomoniasis based on symptoms alone. A laboratory test is needed to confirm the diagnosis.

Fortunately, trichomoniasis can be treated easily with pills. Good thing is this medication is safe for pregnant women to take is. Alcohol is not recommended within 24 hours after taking these pills.

Trichomoniasis is easy to get it again. What's more: 20 percent of patients get infected again within 3 months after receiving treatment.

So, the only way to avoid the infection is to know that your partner is not infected. Be it one night stand or a long-term monogamous relationship, this is the bast way to be sure.

If you are using a condom be aware that this is not the perfect protection: the parasite can infect areas that are not covered by a condom.


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