Skip to main content

Trichomoniasis symptoms and treatment

Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a tiny parasite. It can be passed on through having vaginal sex without a condom or sharing sex toys with someone who has the infection. It is not thought to be passed on through oral or anal sex. 

Using male and female condoms during sex will help to protect you from trichomoniasis. But, it won’t guarantee the infection doesn’t spread.  

Most people don’t have any symptoms so it’s important to get regular sexual health checks to check for Trichomoniasis if you’ve had unprotected sex.  You should also check for other STIs. Trichomoniasis is easy to treat with antibiotics. 

What is trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis, or trich (pronounced ‘trick’), is a common STI. It is caused by a tiny parasite called trichomonas vaginalis. 

In women, trichomoniasis can cause a foul-smelling vaginal discharge. It can also lead to genital itching and painful urination. Most men who have trichomoniasis have no symptoms.  

It is easy to treat but most people don’t have any symptoms. If you’ve had unprotected sex and are worried about trichomoniasis or other STI's it’s important to get tested as soon as possible. 

How do you get trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis is easily passed on through unprotected vaginal sex with someone who has the infection. The person can be symptomless. 

Trichomoniasis is not usually passed on through oral or anal sex. It can’t be passed on through kissing or hugging. 

If you get the infection when pregnant you can be more likely to give birth prematurely. Your baby is also more likely to have a low birth weight. 

For more details on trichomoniasis in pregnancy read our ‘in detail’ tab.

How do I prevent trichomoniasis?

Like all STIs, the best way to prevent trichomoniasis is to practice safe sex and use a new condom every time. However, some people have the infection in the area around the penis or vagina that is not covered by a condom. This means sometimes the infection can still spread even if you use a condom. 

Regularly testing for trichomoniasis and other STIs will help you to stay safe. This is especially important if you are having sex with multiple partners. It’s really helpful to talk to your partner/s about your status and decide how to have safer sex together. 

Trichomoniasis can also be passed on through sharing sex toys. This is less common. Always cover sex toys with a new condom and wash them after use. 

Apart from condoms, other forms of contraception won’t prevent trichomoniasis. Neither will taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). 

What are the symptoms of trichomoniasis?

Many people with trichomoniasis don’t have any symptoms. They can still pass the infection on to others. If you do get symptoms, they normally appear within a month of infection. 

Trich symptoms in women include: 

  • yellow-green vaginal discharge which may have an unpleasant fishy smell 

  • soreness, swelling and itching in and around the vagina, and sometimes the inner thighs 

  • pain when urinating (peeing) or having sex 

  • pain in the lower stomach. 

Trich symptoms in men include: 

  • thin, white discharge from the tip of the penis 

  • pain or a burning sensation when urinating (peeing) 

  • needing to urinate (pee) more often than usual 

  • soreness, swelling and redness around the head of the penis and foreskin. 

How do I test for trichomoniasis?

Getting tested for trichomoniasis is easy and doesn’t hurt. A healthcare professional will examine you and take a swab from the vagina or the penis. Sometimes men will also be asked to give a urine sample. 

If the test shows you have trichomoniasis you should test for other STIs. You will need to tell any recent sexual partners so they can also get tested and treated. You can ask your healthcare professional for advice about this. 

How is trichomoniasis treated?

Trichomoniasis is unlikely to go away without treatment. It is easily treated with antibiotics. This can either be taken in one day as a single dose or twice a day over the course of 5 to 7 days. 

Without treatment, the infection can last for months or even years.  

Don’t have sex until you and your current sexual partner/s have finished your treatment. You will need to be checked by a healthcare professional to make sure the infection has cleared. If you have taken the one-day treatment, you will need to avoid having sex for seven days afterwards. It's important to complete the whole course of antibiotics. 

If you have been treated for trichomoniasis you are not immune and you can get infected again. 

Test your knowledge of STIs

STIs quiz

Join the conversation

Looking for more detailed information?

What effects does trichomoniasis have during pregnancy?

If you get the infection when pregnant you can be more likely to give birth prematurely. The baby is also more likely to have a low birth weight. If you are pregnant and think you may be at risk of trichomoniasis you should test for the infection. Speak to your doctor or healthcare worker for more information and advice. 

What is the link between trichomoniasis and HIV?

Having an STI, including trichomoniasis, can increase your risk of getting HIV. 

If you have HIV and also have trichomoniasis, your viral load will likely increase. This will make you more likely to pass on HIV if you have sex without a condom. This is true even if you are taking HIV drugs (antiretrovirals)

However, if you have an undetectable viral load, there’s no evidence that trichomoniasis makes you more likely to pass on HIV. 

If you're taking antiretroviral treatment, it’s important to tell your doctor. You can then discuss how treatment for trichomoniasis may interact with your HIV drugs. 

How do I tell my recent sexual partner(s) I have trichomoniasis?

If you find out you have trichomoniasis it’s important to tell any recent sexual partner(s). That way they can also get tested, and treated if necessary. If you feel it is safe to do so then telling a partner is the responsible thing to do. It shows you respect them and want them to stay healthy. 

How do you talk about STIs?

Join the conversation

Share this page

  • Last updated: 18 March 2022
  • Last full review: 01 March 2022
  • Next full review: 01 March 2025
Did you find this page useful?
See what data we collect and why