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Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the Trichomonas vaginalis parasite. This parasite can be spread easily during sexual intercourse and infects the genitalia of both men and women. Symptoms include painful urination, vaginal itching, pain during sex and abnormal discharge. However, the majority of people do not experience any symptoms at all. Therefore, it is important to get tested if you have been exposed to Trichomoniasis as well as as a part of routine screening for sexually transmitted infections.

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing is performed by using a high-vaginal swab for women, and a urine sample for men which allows detection of the presence of the parasite.

If detected, you will be treated with a dose of oral antibiotics. If left untreated, Trichomoniasis can lead to an increased risk in contracting HIV, and can cause other health complications.


What are the symptoms of Trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis symptoms in men

  • Painful urination.
  • Thin white discharge from penis.
  • Soreness, redness or swelling on and around the glans penis (the head of the penis).
  • Pain during ejaculation.
  • Itching, tingling or irritation inside the penis.
  • Burning sensation after ejaculation.

Trichomoniasis symptoms in women

  • Painful urination.
  • Thick, thin or frothy vaginal discharge with a clear, white, green or yellow color.
  • Vaginal discharge with a strong, fishy odor.
  • Soreness, swelling, burning or itching around the vagina and vulval area.
  • Pain during sexual intercourse.
  • Bacterial vaginosis (BV).
  • Blood spotting.

Can you have Trichomoniasis without any symptoms?

Up to 50% of people do not experience any symptoms at all.

Could the symptoms of Trichomoniasis be mistaken for another STI or infection?

Trichomoniasis has similar symptoms to other STIs such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea and Mycoplasma genitalium. Bacterial vaginosis also shares similar characteristics of Trichomoniasis.

It is very important to get tested in order to receive the correct diagnosis and treatment.

When do Trichomoniasis symptoms start to appear?

Symptoms usually appear within 3 to 28 days after being exposed to Trichomoniasis.

Not everyone with Trichomoniasis will develop symptoms, therefore it is important to get tested if you think you may be infected as part of an STI check.


What causes Trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginais. Rather than invade human cells, the parasite latches onto their surfaces and feeds on them. In women this parasite infects the vagina and urethra, while in men it infects the urethra, glans penis, and prostate gland.

What factors can increase the likelihood of getting Trichomoniasis?

Having unprotected sexual contact with someone greatly increases the risk of infection. Furthermore, the presence of other sexually transmitted infections increases the likelihood of contracting Trichomoniasis.

It is important to use a condom or femidom with any new partners to avoid transmission.

There is no evidence to suggest Trichomoniasis can spread through oral or anal sex, close contact such as kissing and hugging, sharing towels, toilet seats or cutlery.

Can I get Trichomoniasis even if I wear a condom?

As with all sexually transmitted infections, the only way to prevent trichomoniasis completely is to not have sex. You can lower the risk by using condoms correctly. Condoms are up to 98% effective at preventing transmission of STI’s when you have sex. However, some creams and vaginal pessaries, such as thrush treatment can make condoms less effective.

Can you tell who gave me Trichomoniasis?

It is not always possible to tell who gave you Trichomoniasis. You may be able to work this out based on your sexual history and test results , but we are not able to provide you with a definitive answer.

How can I prevent getting Trichomoniasis?

Transmission can be avoided by the following measures:

  • Using a condom or femidom during sexual intercourse.
  • Avoiding sharing sex toys which have not been properly cleaned or covered with a condom.
  • Getting tested before engaging in sexual contact with any new partners.
  • Avoiding sexual intercourse with all partners until the entire course of their treatment is completed and the symptoms are gone.

Think you might have Trichomoniasis?

Tested positive for Trichomoniasis?


What is the long-term prognosis for someone who has Trichomoniasis?

It is essential to seek treatment if you have been diagnosed with Trichomoniasis. Once cured, most patients can move on with their lives with no long-term complications.

If left untreated, long-term complications such as the listed below can occur.

  • genital and urethral inflammation risk of contracting other STIs and viruses such as HIV, Herpes, and HPV.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease in women.
  • Acute and chronic prostatitis in men
  • Increased cervical or prostate cancer risk, especially if co-infected with HPV.
  • Infertility.

Treatment for Trichomoniasis can fail. However, this is only seen in 5-15% of patients. You can read more about treatment failure here.

Will having Trichomoniasis affect pregnancy and childbirth?

A Trichomoniasis infection during pregnancy can lead to premature birth or a low birthweight for the infant.

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Reviewed by: Mrs. Magda Novacka
Written By: Jackie Winge

Last reviewed date: 29 September 2023
Next review due: 29 September 2026

Whilst this content is written and reviewed by sexual health specialists, it is for general guidance only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your clinician.