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What Causes Trichomoniasis?

Trichomonas vaginalis

Story at-a-glance -

  • A tiny, one-celled protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis is mainly responsible for trichomoniasis. It is usually transmitted via unprotected sexual intercourse
  • The first signs of trichomoniasis manifest five to 28 days after the initial infection

There is only one known cause of trichomoniasis: a tiny, one-celled protozoan parasite1 called Trichomonas vaginalis, which is usually transmitted via unprotected sexual intercourse.2,3

How people get trichomoniasis is simple: The parasite moves from the penis to the vagina, or vice versa, or from one vagina to another between two women4,5 In some cases, trichomoniasis may start infecting your body after touching an infected person's genitals (even without ejaculation in men)6 or using sex toys that weren't washed or covered with a new condom prior to use.7

What makes trichomoniasis different from other infections is that it's uncommon for the parasite to affect other body parts, such as the hands, mouth or anus. Furthermore, trichomoniasis cannot be spread through anal or oral sex, physical contact such as hugging and kissing, sharing of dishes, cups or towels, or sitting on a toilet seat.8,9

When Do Trichomoniasis Symptoms First Appear?

The first signs of trichomoniasis happen five to 28 days after the initial infection.10 As noted by MedicineNet, men and women may notice these early indicators:11

  • Genital irritation and itching
  • White, clear, gray, yellow or green discharge that's frothy and smells foul12,13
  • Discomfort during sexual intercourse or urination
  • Lower abdominal pain (although this is rare)

What's confusing about trichomoniasis is that some people see indicators of this STI, while others don't. In fact, around 70 percent of trichomoniasis patients do not exhibit symptoms at all. Factors like the person's age and their overall health may play a role in whether or not symptoms appear.14 As such, extra precautions are needed, given that infected people who don't show signs of trichomoniasis can still pass the infection to others.

Reduced appearances of common symptoms spiral into lesser instances or even failure to do a routine testing, making trichomoniasis such a widely underdiagnosed STI.15

Common Risk Factors for Trichomoniasis

The risk factors for trichomoniasis are pretty straightforward. If any of these statements apply to you and you experience the hallmark signs, talk to a physician or health expert and have yourself tested for trichomoniasis, or any other STI for that matter:16

  • Having multiple sexual partners
  • Having a history of other STIs
  • Being previously diagnosed with trichomoniasis
  • Not using a condom during sexual intercourse


Trichomoniasis: Introduction

What Is Trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis In Men and Women

Trichomoniasis Symptoms

Trichomoniasis Causes

Trichomoniasis Treatment

Trichomoniasis Prevention

Trichomoniasis FAQ

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