Caused by the protozoan parasite Trichomonas vaginalis, trichomoniasis affects 7.4 million people each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MedlinePlus points out that the largest number of trichomoniasis cases occur in women ages 16 and 35. Antibiotics can treat trichomoniasis, though the sexually transmitted disease can affect patients' bodies while they are still infected.
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Vaginal and Vulvar Discomfort
When women get trichomoniasis, the infection can affect the vagina and vulva, the external female genital organ. Planned Parenthood notes that trichomoniasis commonly causes vaginitis, or an irritation of the vulva and vagina. For example, women can have itching of both the vagina and vulva; that itching can also affect the thighs. Vaginal discharge can occur, which MedlinePlus describes as a thin discharge with a greenish-yellow color; the vaginal discharge can also appear foamy or frothy. Women with trichomoniasis may notice that they have a foul or strong vaginal odor. The discomfort in this genital region can occur when patients have intercourse.
Effects on Men
MedlinePlus notes that many men infected with trichomoniasis do not have any symptoms and the infection may go away without any treatment. But other men can have effects of trichomoniasis that cause discomfort in the genital region. For example, men with trichomoniasis can develop prostatitis, which is swelling of the prostate gland, or epididymitis, which is swelling of the epididymis. The epididymis connects the testicle to the vas deferens. Trichomoniasis can cause men to have discharge or itching from their urethra. Burning after ejaculation or urination can also occur.
Effects on Pregnancy
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that if women become pregnant while infected with trichomoniasis, the sexually transmitted disease can affect the birth. For example, the infected mother can give birth early. The newborn can also have a low birth weight, which is under 5.5 lbs.
Changes to Cervical Tissue
If a woman has a long-term infection of trichomoniasis, meaning she has not received treatment, MedlinePlus explains that the infection can cause changes to the tissue on her cervix. When the woman has her annual Pap smear, the Pap smear will show the abnormal cells. If trichomoniasis causes changes to the cervical tissue, the woman will undergo treatment to remove the abnormal cells, such as cryosurgery, which freezes off the abnormal tissue. The woman will also have another Pap smear three to six months later.
Susceptibility to Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases
When trichomoniasis causes vaginal or vulvar inflammation, the woman become susceptible to human immunodeficiency virus or HIV if exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Until treated, people with trichomoniasis can spread the infection to other people. MedlinePlus explains that trichomoniasis can spread through penile and vaginal contact or vulva to vulva contact, but not through oral or anal intercourse. Planned Parenthood adds that trichomoniasis can spread through an infected person sharing a sex toy with another person.