If you’re wondering whether you should get a trichomoniasis test or not, you’re not alone. The CDC estimates that 3.7 million people in the US have trichomoniasis and the WHO estimates that 160 million people contract it every year (1, 2). These statistics show us that trich is one of the most common STIs, but that doesn’t make it any easier to talk about.
Since it’s so common and comes with irreversible damage if left untreated, we all should consider getting a trich STD test. But before you decide whether you should get one or not, let’s look at what trich really is, the symptoms, and the consequences if it goes untreated.
What is Trich?
In short, trichomoniasis is a parasitic infection that survives by killing and eating your cells.
Trichomoniasis is an STI that results from your skin being exposed to trichomonas vaginalis. Trichomonas vaginalis is a parasite that survives by killing your cells. The little parasites gang up on a cell until it stresses itself to death. Once the cell dies, the parasites eat it (3).
Your body will respond to the parasite by trying to fight it with while blood cells. This response usually isn’t enough to kill off all the parasites, but it will cause inflammation and more cell death. As more cells die, there’s more food for the trichomonads. Wash, rinse, and repeat. This cycle continues until you receive treatment. Without treatment, you can loose enough cells to cause some serious damage to your body.
To make matters even worse, this parasite can only survive in the vaginal tract in women or the urethral tract in men. So the massive cell damage that trich causes will be in your reproductive area, leading to a host of unwanted side effects and symptoms. The symptoms are what make this STI hard to catch, for some.
If you are experiencing any of the following, you may have trichomoniasis:
- discolored vaginal discharge (yellow, green, gray, or frothy)
- pain/burning when urinating
- unusually smelly vaginal discharge
- urethral discharge
- swollen genitals
- pain while engaging in sex
- itchy or irritable vagina
- inside of your penis is itchy or irritable
- need to pee more frequently than usual
The fact of the matter is, roughly 70% of people who have trichomoniasis won’t show any symptoms (4). This number is so high because men generally do not display any symptoms but can show symptoms occasionally. Since men and women get trich at around the same rate, that accounts for most of the people who won’t show any symptoms. What about the others though?
About half of the women who have trich will display symptoms. But often times the symptoms are mild enough that they can be mistaken for a urinary tract infection or a yeast infection. If you have what you assume to be a yeast or urinary tract infection, you might want to consider getting an at home trichomoniasis test.
If you do test positive, check with your test provider to see if they offer any assistance. Some companies will have a doctor send a prescription to your local pharmacy. Others tell you to inform your doctor and get a prescription from them. However, if you do test positive the treatment is fairly straight forward.
The recommended treatment for trich is pretty simple. The CDC’s suggested treatment is to take 2 grams of a nitroimidazole (tinidazole or metronidazole) just one time. A nitroimidazole is a type of medicine that is used to fight parasitic and bacterial infections.
If the one-time 2g treatment doesn’t work, then you will be given tinidazole for five days or metronidazole for seven days. After that, you should be all clear of trichomoniasis. To make sure the treatment worked, it’s a good idea to get tested again several weeks after completing treatment. Talk with your doctor about the specifics of when you should test yourself again.
If Left Untreated
Given the simplicity of the treatment, this is an STI you definitely want to treat as soon as possible. If it goes untreated for too long, the cell deaths will start to add up and inflict major damage on your body. This damage can be irreversible and even life threatening in some cases.
Untreated trichomoniasis can result in an inflammed urethra, vagina, or cervix, pelvic inflammatory disease, premature birth, prostate cancer, and cervical cancer (5). It also has been linked to higher rates of HIV and AIDS (6).
Now that you know about the long term effects of trichomoniasis, it’s not something you want floating around your body. If you think you may have had sexual contact with someone who has trich, consider getting a home trich test, visiting your local clinic, or visiting your doctor.