What is trichomonas vaginalis (TV)?
Trichomonas vaginalis (TV) is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a tiny organism (living cell) that lives inside the vagina and urethra (pee tube) in women, or in men.
It is passed on through unprotected sexual contact. You do not have to have sex with a lot of people to catch TV – it is easily passed on. Anyone who is sexually active can catch it.
You cannot catch TV from oral sex (giving head, a ‘blow job’, ‘going down’) or from kissing, hugging or sharing household objects such as towels, toilets or cups, etc.
What are the symptoms (signs) of trichomonas vaginalis (TV)?
Over half of women with TV won’t know they have the infection. It is unusual for men to have any symptoms at all. If a person does have symptoms they usually show within about a month of contact with the infection.
Symptoms may include some of the following signs:
- A change in vaginal discharge: there may be more discharge than usual and it may smell unpleasant. Sometimes it is a greeny colour and may appear ‘frothy’
- Vaginal soreness and discomfort during
- Discomfort when passing urine in men and women
- A discharge from the tip of the penis – this may be cloudy white or a clear colour
All of the above symptoms can also be the sign of other common infections, so if you are sexually active and notice anything different from normal, it’s important to attend your local Devon Sexual Health clinic for advice.
Treatment for trichomonas vaginalis (TV)
TV is tested for by taking a sample from the vagina in women and performing a laboratory test. If the test shows TV is present, the infection is treated with a course of antibiotics. It is not normally possible to test men for TV; they usually get treated when a female partner is diagnosed with the infection.
Trichomonas is unlikely to get better on its own and is easily treated with an antibiotic tablet called Metronidazole. Sometimes this is taken as a large single dose, but more commonly you take the tablets twice a day for 5-7 days.
When you take metronidazole you will be advised to avoid alcohol for the days you are taking the medication, plus 48 hours after the last tablet is taken. This is because alcohol interacts with this antibiotic and will make you feel very unwell.
Most people notice an improvement in their symptoms within a few days of starting the medication, but it is important to take all of the medication you are given to ensure it is properly treated.
What should I do if I think I have trichomonas vaginalis (TV)?
If you are sexually active and notice any genital symptoms it’s important to attend a Devon Sexual Health Clinic to have a chat and get tested. TV doesn’t always have symptoms, so if this is what you are particularly worried about, mention it when you come in. We deal with lots of people with lots of different symptoms everyday so it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
If you are a man and a female partner has recently told you that they have TV, it’s really important to tell us because it is not usually possible to test men for TV. In this situation, we would always give you treatment.
How can I avoid getting trichomonas vaginalis (TV)?
Use a condom when having sex with new or unknown partners. Talk to partners about their sexual health and ask if they have been tested for STIs since their last sexual partner. If they haven’t been tested before, encourage them to attend a Devon Sexual Health clinic or use condoms until they have had tests to show they have no STIs.
Limiting the number of people you have sex with also reduces the chance that you will come into contact with TV, and all other STIs.
Carefully disinfect and clean any sex toys between uses.