- Written by Dr. Andrea Pinto on September 01, 2021
Trichomoniasis is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can cause a range of manifestations, from uncomfortable symptoms to being completely asymptomatic for a long time. If you’re in a monogamous relationship and receive a diagnosis for trichomoniasis, it’s understandable if you suspect that your partner has been intimate with someone else. But is this always the case, or is it possible to get trichomoniasis in a relationship without cheating?
Read on to learn how you can get trichomoniasis if no one cheats.
How can you get trichomoniasis if no one cheats?
Believe it or not, it’s possible to develop new symptoms of trichomoniasis even if no one has cheated in your relationship.
Because this sexually transmitted infection can remain completely asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms for a long time, you could suddenly experience symptoms or receive a positive trichomoniasis test even if the infection isn’t recent. Your partner could also be asymptomatic and unknowingly pass the infection to you from a previous relationship.
And although it’s extremely rare, trichomoniasis can also be spread through other means. A study published by the PLOS ONE medical journal found a high prevalence of trichomoniasis in young girls who denied ever having sex before. The study postulated that this happened as a result of shared bath water and inconsistent soap use.
So yes — it’s possible to get trichomoniasis even if no one cheats. Although the most common transmission mechanism of this disease is through unprotected vaginal intercourse, someone can have a latent, asymptomatic infection for many months and pass it on to a new partner without realizing it. And despite the fact that more research is needed, there is some evidence to suggest that some forms of non-sexual transmission are also possible.
Fortunately, trichomoniasis can be easily treated with a single dose of metronidazole. Nearly all cases of trichomoniasis respond well to this treatment — after receiving it, it’s very likely that you and your partner will be back to normal in just a few days.
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What is trichomoniasis?
Trichomoniasis, colloquially known as “trich” (pronounced “trick”), is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. Trichomoniasis can be transmitted during vaginal, anal, or oral sex, and genital touching.
According to the CDC, trichomoniasis is the most common curable STI in the United States. It has been estimated that there are approximately two million new cases of trichomoniasis per year in the United States alone. According to Medscape, there could be more than 220 million cases of trichomoniasis worldwide.
Risk factors for trichomoniasis include:
- Multiple sex partners
- Having unprotected sex
- Having had trichomoniasis in the past
- A past history of other STIs
Symptoms of trichomoniasis
Despite how common this infection is, it has been estimated that only around 30 percent of people who have it show any symptoms. Instead, the large majority of those infected with trichomoniasis remain completely asymptomatic. As a result, many people can spread the disease without even realizing that they have it.
It’s more common for men to be asymptomatic carriers of trichomoniasis. According to the Mayo Clinic, when trichomoniasis does cause symptoms, they can include:
- Foul-smelling, frothy vaginal discharge that can be white, gray, green, or yellow
- Genital itching or burning
- Painful urination
- Painful intercourse
- Lower abdominal pain
- Penile discharge
- Pain or burning after ejaculation
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Untreated trichomoniasis can lead to certain health risks, such as an increased risk of getting HIV. Pregnant women with trichomoniasis also have a higher risk of preterm labor and having a baby with low birth weight.
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Fortunately, trichomoniasis is very easy to treat. This infection can be treated with a single dose of an antibiotic and antiprotozoal medication called metronidazole. Although most cases are treated with a single dose, your doctor could recommend a lower dose that should be taken twice a day for seven straight days.
According to the NHS, metronidazole can cause certain side effects, such as an upset stomach and a mild metallic taste in your mouth. You should abstain completely from alcohol while you take metronidazole and at least for 3 days after finishing the treatment course. Alcohol and metronidazole can interact and cause unpleasant adverse effects such as:
- Heart palpitations
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chest pain
- Skin flushing
- Difficulty breathing
You will need to abstain from sex until you complete your trichomoniasis treatment, and your partner should also be treated. If you have had multiple sex partners recently, it’s important to inform them of your diagnosis so they can get tested and treated — this is especially important due to the large percentage of people who remain asymptomatic and can spread the infection to their future partners.
Keep in mind that you can become reinfected with trichomoniasis in the future even after receiving treatment one time. According to the Cleveland Clinic, you can even pass the infection back and forth with the same partner until both of you receive treatment.
To lower your risk of getting trichomoniasis, it’s also very important to use a condom whenever you have sex, especially when it’s a new partner. You should also get regular STD testing, and consult with your doctor about any reproductive health concerns or symptoms.
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- Trichomoniasis - CDC Fact Sheet - cdc.gov
- What is the global incidence of trichomoniasis? - medscape.com
- Trichomoniasis - mayoclinic.org
- Trichomoniasis - Treatment - nhs.uk
- Trichomoniasis - my.clevelandclinic.org
- Non-Sexual Transmission of Trichomonas vaginalis in Adolescent Girls Attending School in Ndola, Zambia - journals.plos.org