Tricky trichomonas

Originally Published: May 29, 1998 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: May 19, 2014
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Dear Alice,

I ended a relationship about a year ago. I have always seemed to have a yeast infection when I went to doctors before. In my relationship I had went to the doctors before because of discharge and just told them I didn’t need to really be looked at because I know what it is. Well at the end of my relationship I went to the doctor to get a whole check-up. Come to find out that what I thought was a yeast infection turned out to be Trichomonas. I think I have had it for a couple of years now. I have gone to be treated for it 2 times. Each time it would go away and then come back. I was wondering if it was because I had it for such a long time?

From,
Scared

Dear Scared In The South,

It might seem like a trichomonas infection is trying to trick you into more visits to the health care provider. Trichomonas vaginalis, or trich, is a small organism (one cell) that causes an infection called trichomoniasis. Trichomoniasis is most commonly transmitted through sexual contact, but it can be picked up by non-sexually, too: warm, moist environments, like jacuzzis or shared baths, can sometimes host and possibly, though rarely, transmit the organism. It's true, the symptoms of trich can often resemble a yeast infection.

Your story is helpful in that it illustrates the importance of always having a yeast infection diagnosed — you might learn that it's not a yeast infection at all. The good news is trichomoniasis is more annoying than it is threatening to your health and is typically treated with a single dose of antibiotics. Trichomonas thrive in warm, moist conditions. It's no wonder that the infection keeps coming back, since those little protozoa have found a great place to live and they're determined to stay. It may also put your mind at east that your experience with reinfection isn't unheard of — about one in five people end up becoming reinfected after treatment.

Being properly diagnosed and treated is crucial to ridding the infection from your body. Your health care provider may have already advised you to avoid alcohol for up to 48 hours after taking the antibiotic commonly prescribed to treat trich, as it may result in some severe side effects, including nausea, stomach pain, and vomiting. Additionally, it's good to make sure that any sexual partners you've had are also treated, even if they don't currently have symptoms.

Speaking further with a health care provider about your treatment options might be helpful. If you're a student at Columbia, you can make an appointment by contacting Medical Services (Morningside) or the Student Health Service (CUMC). In addition to taking medication, s/he may recommend being tested for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and that you get a Pap smear as long-term trich infections may cause changes on the cervix. To prevent reinfection in the future, using barriers during sex, such as condoms or dams, are your best bet.

Wishing you an end to the infections,

Alice