Good to Know: Trichomonas vs. Yeast Infections

By  October 30, 2009
Having an infection down below can feel like your entire world is coming to an end. Before you panic, know that it could likely be something minor and easily treatable, like trichomonas or a yeast infection. New Orleans-based Dr. Christy Valentine, MD of Valentine Medical Center shares her top tips on how to tell the differnce between the two. And remember, when in doubt, don’t ever hesistate to visit your gynecologist.

Tip #1: What is normal?
It is normal to have some degree of vaginal discharge.  This discharge varies in thickness and amount from woman to woman.  It is also normal to notice a variation in this discharge depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle, whether you are pregnant, or if you use a hormone mediated birth control method such as the pill.

Tip# 2: Are Yeast Infections Common?
Vaginal yeast infections are extremely common and have probably plagued women since the beginning of time.   They are most frequently caused by the fungus Candida albicans.  This fungus can be found on the skin and in the nose and mouth normally.  In the right setting and if given the opportunity, this fungus will cause the vaginal burning, itching, and pain most associated with a yeast infection.  

Tip #3: Look For the Signs of a Yeast Infection.
The vaginal discharge of a yeast infection can range from a thin discharge, to the thick "cottage cheese-like" curds classically described, to no discharge at all.  

Tip #4 Who is Most Likely to Develop a Yeast infection.
Women who are on antibiotics, use hormonal birth control methods or contraceptive devices such as a vagina sponge, intrauterine device, or diaphragm may also be more likely to develop a vaginal yeast infection.

Tip #5: So What’s the Difference?
The number one, and probably most important, difference between the two infections is that trichomonas is a sexually transmitted disease.  

Tip #6 What Causes Trichomonas?
The infection is caused by the organism trichomonas vaginalis and may be found in the vagina, cervix, and surrounding tissues.  

Tip #7: Be Aware of the Symptoms.
Women with symptoms of trichomonas may have a foul-smelling, thin discharge.  Burning and itching in the vagina and vulvar area, as well as pain or discomfort during sexual activity, and even vaginal bleeding after sex may occur.  Women may also experience pain on urination, and/or frequent urination.  The frothy, green discharge classically described may not be present.

Tip #8: Self-Diagnosing Trichomonas Can Be Tricky.
At the other end of the spectrum of a trichomonal infection it is possible to develop a carrier state during which a woman may have no signs or symptoms of an infection.  This carrier state can last for extended periods making it difficult to determine from whom the infection was contracted.

Tip #9: The Bottom Line.
The bottom line is that it can be difficult for a woman to tell the difference between a vaginal yeast infection and a trichomonal infection without the aid of their physician or health care provider.  If a woman has never had a yeast infection before or notices an unfamiliar change in her vaginal discharge, she should seek professional advice.  Symptoms such as vaginal pain, burning, itching, swelling, redness, abnormal bleeding or malodorous discharge need further evaluation.  

Tip #10: Be Honest.
If you have any questions, it never hurts to ask.  Keep open lines of communication between you, your sexual partner and your physician.