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What Causes Trichomoniasis?

Trichomonas vaginalis

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  • There is only one known cause of trichomoniasis: a tiny, one-celled protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis which is usually transmitted via unprotected sexual intercourse
  • The first signs of trichomoniasis happen at least 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. This trichomoniasis-causing parasite 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, between men and women, or from one vagina to another among two women.4,5

In some cases, however, 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 sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is that it’s uncommon for the infection-causing 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 towels8 or sitting on a toilet seat.9,10

When Do Trichomoniasis Symptoms First Appear?

The first signs of trichomoniasis happen at least five to 28 days after the initial infection.11 Typical indicators of trichomoniasis in men and women include:12

Irritation and itching in the genitals

White, clear, yellow or green discharge that’s thin or frothy and smells unusual

Discomfort during sexual intercourse or urination

Lower abdominal pain (although this is rare)

However, what’s confusing about trichomoniasis is that some people experience indicators of this STI, while others do not. In fact, around 70 percent of trichomoniasis patients do not show symptoms at all.13

Factors like the patient’s age and his or her overall health may play a role in the appearance of symptoms, or lack thereof. 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.14

Common Risk Factors for Trichomoniasis

The risk factors for trichomoniasis are pretty straightforward. If any of these statements apply to you or someone you know, talk to a physician or health expert, and/or have yourself tested for trichomoniasis, or any other STI for that matter:15

Having multiple sexual partners

Having a history of other sexually transmitted infections

Undergoing a previous episode of trichomoniasis

Having sex without a condom


Trichomoniasis: Introduction

What Is Trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis In Men and Women

Trichomoniasis Symptoms

Trichomoniasis Causes

Trichomoniasis Treatment

Trichomoniasis Prevention

Trichomoniasis FAQ

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