How to say:
What is it?
Trichomonas vaginalis (TV) is a sexually transmitted
infection (STI). Trichomonas affects both men and women and is
easily passed through sexual contact.
In men the infection can found in the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the
bladder to the
tip of the penis) and in
women the infection can be found in the vagina and urethra. Anyone
who is sexually active can get it and pass it on. You don't need to
have lots of sexual partners.
As there are often no symptoms, people can live with trichomonas
without knowing it for a long time. But once the infection
has been detected, it can be easily treated.
How do you get it
You can get trichomonas through:
- having unprotected vaginal sex,
- sharing vibrators or other sex toys, that have not been washed
or covered with a new condom
- It is possible the infection can be spread between women by
rubbing vulvas (female genitals) together or by transferring
discharge from one vagina to another on the fingers.
- Trichomonas can be passed from a mother to her baby during
You cannot get trichomonas from:
- oral or
- kissing or hugging
- sharing cups, plates and cutlery
Trichomonas cannot survive outside the human body for long, so
you cannot catch it from a toilet seat or towels.
Even if you have had trichomonas before, and were treated
successfully, you are still at risk of catching it again. Using a
condom will greatly reduce your risk.
Signs and Symptoms
As many people who have trichomonas do not have any symptoms, or
have only mild symptoms, it is possible to have the infection and
still feel well. If there are any symptoms, they usually
appear within 1 month of coming into contact with an infected
Approximately 50% of women with trichomonas have no
symptoms however some women may experience:
- Soreness, inflammation and itching in and around the
- Discomfort when having sex
- A change in vaginal discharge
- A fishy unpleasant smell
- Pain when peeing
Approximately 50% of men with trichomonas have no symptoms, but
those who do may experience some or all of the following:
- A discharge from the penis
- Difficulty, pain or a burning sensation when peeing
- Inflammation of the foreskin (this is uncommon)
Symptoms are caused by inflammation (swelling) of the tube that
carries urine from the bladder to the tip of the penis
Testing for Trichomonas
As most people with trichomonas won't show any signs of being
infected, the best way to find out is to have a test. You may
want to consider a test if:
- you have, or think you have symptoms.
- you have recently had unprotected sex (without a condom) with a
- you or your partner have had unprotected sex with someone
- you have had sex with someone who you know has trichomonas or
- you yourself have another STI.
- you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy.
Remember that testing and treatment of infections is free of
charge, and all advice and information is completely
The test you will have will depend on whether or not you have
symptoms. The tests aren't usually painful, although they may be a
little uncomfortable. Click on the link below for more
involved in an STI test for women
What is involved
in an STI test for men
Your doctor or nurse will tell you how you will receive the
results before you leave.
Routine blood tests do not detect infections such as
trichomonas. If you are not sure whether you have been tested for
trichomonas, just ask.
If you have trichomonas you may wish to be tested for other
sexually transmitted infections as you can have more than one
sexually transmitted infection at the same time. Having an
infection such as trichomonas can mean that you are more at risk of
becoming infected with HIV or passing it on if you are HIV
The good news is that trichomonas is usually easy to treat. The
treatment involves taking a course of antibiotic tablets either as
a single dose or a longer course (up to a week).
- You will be advised not to drink alcohol during the treatment
and for 48 hours afterwards. This is because antibiotics used to
treat trichomonas react with alcohol and this can make you feel
- If there is a high chance you have the infection, treatment may
be started before the results of the test are back. You will always
be given treatment for trichomonas if your partner is found to have
- When you are taking the treatment for trichomonas, it is a good
idea to tell the doctor if you are taking the contraceptive pill or
if you are pregnant.
- There is no evidence that complementary therapies can cure
If you feel upset or angry about having trichomonas and find it
difficult to talk to your partner or friends, don't be afraid to
discuss how you feel with the staff at the sexual health
If you test positive for any STI you should tell your
partner(s). It is very important that your current sexual
partner(s) are also tested and treated. If they are not, they may
develop serious health problems in the future. The staff at the
sexual health service will discuss with you which of your partners
may need to be tested.
If you don't want to tell your partner(s), the clinic can give
you a 'contact slip' to send or give to your partner(s) or, with
your permission, they can do this for you. This slip explains that
they may have been exposed to a STI and suggests that they go for a
check-up. It may or may not say what the infection is. It will not
have your name on it. This is called partner notification.