by Rima Himelstein, M.D.
Heard about "trich"? Trichomoniasis is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It is caused by Trichomonas vaginalis, a type of tiny parasite. When I find the infection in my patients, I often show them the trich under the microscope. Seeing the infection can be the key to getting teens to change their risky behaviors -- sometimes being spooked changes teens' behaviors.
It's a creepy infection, which is easily spread. Trich is passed from one person to another through unprotected sexual contact. Both females and males can get this infection. And because the organism can survive for about one and a half hours on a wet sponge, transmission can possibly occur through shared washcloths, communal bathing, or during routine child care.
Trich symptoms may be masked and remain hidden for days or months after infection.
Females may experience:
Males may experience:
Both females and males may experience pain or discomfort with urination and during sexual intercourse.
Beware! The risk of trich increases with:
A positive test is an eerie sight. Doctors usually diagnose trich by looking at a sample of vaginal fluid under the microscope and identifying the wiggling organisms. (Males are not routinely tested.) Microscopic examination only identifies about half of infections because it requires that a large number of the parasites be present. That is why it is important to get reexamined if symptoms persist.
Unlike Halloween, sex is not for kids. Trich itself is not a life-threatening illness, and it is easy to treat. But it shows that someone is having unprotected sex and is taking big risks. So they may actually have other STDs—maybe one that is not treatable—at the same time. Like any other STD, the best way to prevent trich is to abstain from sex. To lower risk, condoms should be used.
Does your teen know the risks of trich?