You probably consider yourself pretty well versed in STDsÃ¢â‚¬”you use condoms, you schedule regular appointments with your gyno, and you take care of your sexual health. But thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one super-common infection you may not even know about. Only 1 in 5 women have ever heard of the sexually transmitted infection trichomoniasis, but there are an estimated 7.4 million cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year, according to a new survey by the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA).
This under-the-radar infection (commonly known as trich) is caused by a parasite and transmitted through sexual contact with an infected partner. If left untreated, it can lead to an increased risk of acquiring other infections like HIV, as well as pregnancy complications including pre-term labor and low-birth weight. But hereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the good news: Trich is completely curable once itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s diagnosed, and treatment is as easy as a single-dose antibiotic.
Before you run to your gyno demanding a trich test, read on for all the crucial details:
What are the symptoms? Unfortunately, only about 30 percent of people with trich will ever develop any symptoms, according to Lynn Barclay, President and CEO of ASHA. The women who do may experience unusual vaginal discharge, a foul odor, itching in or around the vagina, pain during sex, or pain when urinating. Men are less likely to be infectedÃ¢â‚¬”and even fewer will experience symptomsÃ¢â‚¬”but their signs may include itching, irritation, or discomfort when urinating. Like many other STDs, trich can commonly be misdiagnosed as a yeast infection, says Mimi Secor, board-certified nurse practitioner. If you suspect a yeast infection, check in with your doctor just to be safe.
Who should get tested? Unless youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve had symptoms, your doctor probably hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t ever tested you for trich. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s because itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not routinely included with your annual pap smear and STD testing. Ã¢â‚¬Å“When patients say, Ã¢â‚¬ËœTest me for everythingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ what they usually get tested for is gonorrhea or Chlamydia, and possibly HIV,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Secor. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Everything isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t always everything.Ã¢â‚¬Â But the CDC recommends that any sexually active woman who is experiencing symptoms get tested for trich. So if you have symptoms, head to your gyno, stat. If you test positive, your doctor will give you a prescription to cure it.
How else can you stay safe? The best way to prevent trich and other STDs is by using a condom every time. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not transmitted through skin-to-skin contact like HPV and herpes, so condoms are going to be far more effective in this case,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Barclay. And in the meantime, talk to your doctor about any other infections that you should be getting tested for at your next visit.
photo: iStockPhoto/Thinkstock More from Women's Health:
7 Surprising STD Facts
Why Isn't Random Hooking Up Scary Anymore?
Scary News About STDsÃ‚Â
To find out how to suppress your hunger hormone, buy The Belly Fat Fix now!