Trichomoniasis: Symptoms, Causes, Risks, Complications, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention and Outlook

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Trichomoniasis

1Overview

Trichomoniasis one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or diseases transmitted through unprotected sex. It is sole via contact of the genitals, and not through other means of physical contacts, such as hugging or kissing, sharing of cutlery or cups, or even through anal or oral sex.

It is caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. The disease can affect both men and women, especially older women. In men, the parasite will affect the urethra, the head of the penis, or the prostate gland, while in women, the urethra and the vagina are affected.

2Symptoms

The common symptoms observed in female patients with trichomoniasis include:

  • Painful urination
  • Frequent urination
  • Vaginal discharge that is foul-smelling may be green, yellow, white, or gray in color, may be thin or thick in texture
  • Production of more discharge than normal
  • Fishy-smelling discharge
  • Itching of the genitals
  • Swelling, itching, and soreness around the vaginal area
  • Pain when having sex
  • Change in vaginal PH (normal is 4.5)

Pregnant women with trichomoniasis may deliver their babies prematurely as a result. Also, the baby may be born and with poor weight.

Men with trichomoniasis usually do not experience symptoms. However, if they experience symptoms, these would include:

  • Itching in the penis
  • Penile discharge
  • Frequent urination
  • Burning sensation during urination or after ejaculation

3Causes

Unprotected sex. This disease is passed on to one person from another with the presence of the parasite, Trichomonas vaginalis. It is transmitted through the genital contact between two people regardless of their gender. It can also be passed through the use of sex toys and through mutual masturbation or touching of genitals. The parasite, on the other hand, will not survive in other parts of the body apart from the genitals.

4Risk Factors

Race

The origin of a person may be a factor in their tendency to acquire the disease. African-American women are more likely to get this disease than Hispanic or white women.

Gender

Trichomoniasis may occur in both men and women. However, women are more prone to have this disease rather than men.

Age

It has claimed that older women are more at risk of having this disease as compared to younger women.

Having sex with multiple partners

A person increases his risk of developing a disease if he usually has sex with more than one partner.

Having a sex partner who has had multiple sex partners. An individual has a high risk of acquiring trichomoniasis if she has sex with someone who previously had many sex partners.

Unprotected sex

An individual increase her chances of getting the disease if she has sex without using condoms and the like.

Previously having STD

People who were previously diagnosed with other types of STDs have a higher risk of acquiring the trichomoniasis on a different case. Also, once acquired, trichomoniasis may recur in a patient if he or she is not careful.

Previously having gonorrhea (bacterial infection acquired through sexual contact) or non-gonococcal urethritis (urethral infection caused by germs apart from gonorrhea)

Use of unsterilized sex toys

It is also possible to pass on the disease through sex toys if they are used without washing it first or without covering them with a new condom.

5Complications

When not treated immediately, trichomoniasis may increase the chances of a patient to develop other STDs including Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), a lentivirus linked to the development of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) over time. Furthermore, if a mother does end up developing HIV later on, her baby is also at risk of acquiring HIV upon birth.

Other complications that may arise with the onset of trichomoniasis in a female also include:

  • Infertility
  • Discomfort, heaviness, or pain in the lower abdomen
  • Infection of the adnexa and endometrium
  • Bladder infection
  • Chronic pain in the lower abdomen or around the pelvic area
  • Clogging of the fallopian tube due to scar tissue
  • Inflammation of the fallopian tube
  • Weakening of the barrier of mucus in the cervix
  • Colpitis macularis (strawberry cervix)
  • Cervical dysplasia – Women who left their trichomoniasis untreated are at a higher risk of developing this precancerous condition.
  • Cervical cancer
  • Bartholinitis or the inflammation of the Bartholin’s gland
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) – This refers to the infection of the female reproductive organs.

A study by researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of South Carolina, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine in Columbia said that pregnant women with trichomoniasis may actually risk their child of being born with learning disabilities or retardation. The researchers said the disease was also associated with premature rupture of membranes. Pregnant patients with trichomoniasis are putting their babies at risk of acquiring as well the infection (through the birth canal) and are at risk of having their amniotic sac ruptured early, of stillbirths, as well as suffering from an intrauterine infection.

On the other hand, men with trichomoniasis are at a high risk of developing urethritis or the inflammation of the urethra, in particular, non-gonococcal urethritis. If this is left untreated for a long time, the man may eventually develop epididymitis or the inflammation of the epididymis, prostatitis, sterility, or even prostate cancer.

6Diagnosis

Patients with trichomoniasis usually do not experience the symptoms until after about 28 days from the time the parasite was present in the genitals. It can be tough to tell whether you have it or not by looking at the signs and symptoms alone.

For healthcare professionals to be able to assess whether a person has trichomoniasis, they ask the patient to undergo:

Physical examination

The genitals will be examined by a medical expert. For men, it’s the urologist. For women, it’s the obstetrician.

Laboratory tests

A swab from the genitals will be examined for the presence of the parasite through a microscopic examination. Conducting culture tests, such as fluid culture, is one of the classic methods of assessing the presence of the parasite. Newer tests have been developed since, and while these can be expensive, they are reliable and sensitive enough to diagnose accurately the onset of the disease. This type of tests includes antigen tests, nucleic acid amplification tests, and other tests that detect the Trichomonas DNA. It is highly likely that a person will be assessed on the onset of other STDs as well.

Pelvic exam

Smear test

The chances of being able to diagnose trichomoniasis with the use of this test are very rare and up to chances.

Urinalysis

7Treatment

Antibiotics. Trichomoniasis is quite common and can be treated simply by taking in antibiotics. They must be treated immediately, as they are unlikely to go away without antibiotics, and it increases the likelihood of a person to develop other STDs and illnesses including AIDS and cervical cancer.

The partners of patients with trichomoniasis should also be treated. To prevent complications, a person with trichomoniasis and her or his sexual partner should not have sex while they are taking antibiotics.

8Prevention

Because this condition is transmitted sexually, preventing it would mean having to use condoms and other birth control devices that prevent the direct contact of the sexual organs. Also, a person should limit his number of sex partners to just one person as much as possible. This person should also remain faithful.

Women should avoid douching, as this results in the loss of good bacteria in the vagina which protects the organ from infection. Douching may actually do more harm than good to a person by increasing her risk of developing STDs and should, therefore, be avoided.

Patients may also work with their healthcare provider to come up with a plan that will help them prevent the recurrence of the disease. Perhaps setting an appointment once every month could help detect the onset of the disease early and so prevent it from being spread to other people as well prevent complications.

Pregnant women who have had trichomoniasis should inform their doctor so they can work out a plan together better and conduct newborn screening more closely. Complications may arise, and it may affect the development of the baby or not. It is best to inform your obstetrician your entire medical history so he or she can devise a plan to counteract probable health problems. Newborn screening can help check the condition of the unborn child in the womb of the mother.

To make sure you and your new partner are safe, undergo tests for STDs before having sexual intercourse.

Outlook

Trichomoniasis is a common STD and is highly likely to be cured immediately for as long as the patient finishes taking the antibiotics prescribed for him. However, it is possible for the disease to recur even after the treatment of it. Therefore, the patient must abstain himself from having sex with another person until about a week after he finished taking the antibiotics.

In case symptoms persist, the patient must seek medical advice. It is possible for trichomoniasis to stay for a long time when left untreated