What Is Trichomoniasis - and Could It Explain Why Your Vag Is So Itchy?
What Is Trichomoniasis—and Could It Explain Why Your Vag Is So Itchy?
You’ve been warned about , gonorrhea, syphilis, and other STDs that lead to all sorts of yuck down there. But there’s another common but less-commonly-talked-about one you should be aware of. The name’s trichomoniasis, and it affects an estimated 3.7 million Americans, according to a study published inClinical Infectious Diseases. (What's more, the study also says the disease is 10.3 times more prevalant in African-American women than white and Hispanic women.) That makes it the most common non-viral STD—and research shows its rate of infection is on the rise.
Right about now, you’re probably wondering why you haven’t heard of trichomoniasis if it’s that common. There are two reasons. One, many people who contract the STD, which occurs when the parasite trichomonas vaginalis is exchanged through intercourse, won’t have any symptoms, says Celyna Delgado, M.D., an ob-gyn at the Institute for Women’s Health in San Antonio.
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Secondly, those who do show symptoms could easily attribute them to another issue. That’s because trichomoniasis mainly causes what Delgado calls “nuisance symptoms.” So rather than the serious pain or sores that might come with other STDs, you may experience annoying vaginal itching, burning, or discharge. Which sounds an awful lot like a yeast infection, right? According to Delgado, many women head to the pharmacy to pick up an OTC yeast-infection treatment when really trichomoniasis (or a handful of other troubles) could be to blame.
“If [the OTC product] does not take care of the symptoms, we would recommend following up with their gynecologist, because it could be a bacterial vaginal infection, trichomoniasis, or a more serious STD like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, or something else,” says Delgado. Your doc can check for trichomoniasis with a standard STD test, says Delgado. “We screen for all of them at the same time,” she says.
Trichomoniasis isn’t something that’ll go away on its own—nor is it something you should wait to treat. Left untreated, it can increase your risk of acquiring HIV, according to a study published inCurrent Infectious Disease Reports. Trichomoniasis among pregnant women also increases the risk of delivering a preterm baby, finds an analysis of 11 studies published in the journalSexually Transmitted Diseases.
Luckily, the STD can be treated with an antibiotic. Usually, all it takes is a single dose of Flagyl, says Delgado. Your partner should also be treated to avoid reinfection, and—don’t shoot the messenger—you should refrain from getting your freak on until you’re both in the clear.
RELATED: The Scary Facts About Women and STDs
To slash your risk of contracting the STD in the first place, insist every new partner wears a condom, and avoid intercourse if either of you is showing funky symptoms, says Delgado.
Video: Vaginal Diseases - Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments
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