Trichomonas Vaginalis (TV)
What is it?
Trichomonas vaginalis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It's sometimes called trichomonas, trichomoniasis or TV. Trichomonas vaginalis is an infection caused by a tiny organism called Trichomonas vaginalis. It can infect the vagina, the urethra (tube that carries urine out of the body) and under the foreskin of the penis. The infection is easily passed from one person to another through sexual contact. Anyone who’s having sex can get it and pass it on.
How do I get it?
TV is nearly always passed from one person to another through unprotected vaginal sex. It can also be spread through sharing sex toys if you don’t wash them or cover them with a new condom each time they’re used, but this is rare. You can’t get trichomonas from anal sex, oral sex or from kissing, hugging, sharing cups, plates or cutlery, toilet seats or towels.
Signs and Symptoms
Up to half of infected people won’t have any signs or symptoms at all. Men with trichomonas rarely have symptoms. If you get signs and symptoms, they usually show up within a month of coming into contact with trichomonas.
You might notice the following:
- Soreness, inflammation (pain, redness or swelling) or itching in and around the vagina. This can cause discomfort when having sex.
- A change in vaginal discharge. There may be a small amount or a lot, and it may be thick or thin, or frothy and yellow. You may also notice a strong smell that may be unpleasant.
- Pain, or a burning sensation, when passing urine.
- A discharge from the penis. This discharge may be thin and whitish.
- Inflammation of the foreskin (this is uncommon).
You could still have trichomonas even if a partner has tested negative. If you have trichomonas, you should be tested for other sexually transmitted infections as you can have more than one sexually transmitted infection at once.
There are different ways of testing for trichomonas. You may be asked to give a urine sample.
- If you have a vagina, a doctor or nurse may take a swab from the vagina during an internal examination or you may be asked to use a swab yourself.
- If you have a penis, a doctor or nurse may use a swab to collect a sample from the entrance to the urethra at the tip of the penis.
A swab looks like a cotton bud, but is smaller and rounded. It sometimes has a small plastic loop on the end rather than a cotton tip. It’s wiped over the parts of the body that could be infected and easily picks up samples of discharge and cells. This only takes a few seconds and isn’t painful, though it may be uncomfortable for a moment.
Sometimes your sample can be looked at under a microscope and you can get the result straight away. Otherwise, you may have to wait up to 2 weeks. Routine blood tests don’t detect trichomonas.
The treatment for TV involves taking a course of antibiotic tablets. This may be a single dose or a week long course. If you take it according to the instructions it’s at least 90% effective.
- You’ll 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 can make you feel very unwell.
- If there’s a high chance you have the infection, treatment may be started before the results of the test are back. You’ll always be given treatment for trichomonas if a partner is found to have trichomonas.
- Tell the doctor or nurse if you’re pregnant, think you might be, or are breastfeeding, as this can affect the treatment you’re given.
- There’s no evidence that complementary therapies cure trichomonas. Complementary therapies are therapies that fall outside of mainstream healthcare.
Further Guidance: Trichomonas vaginalis