How long can trichomoniasis be dormant?

Medically reviewed by Neka Miller, PhD on July 15, 2021. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


Trichomoniasis (or “trich”) is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the country. Although it can affect all genders, trich infection symptoms can be more prominent among women. The infection affects millions of people every year, and many people don’t even realize that they have it. Part of this comes from the symptoms and a sense of “dormancy” with the disease. Learn more about trichomoniasis in women and why testing for this STD is so important below.

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What is Trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease infection caused by a parasite, specifically a one-celled protozoan. This parasite travels easily through sexual fluids, including pre-cum, semen, and vaginal fluids. It typically infects the vulva, vagina, urethra, and penis, but it usually does not affect the mouth, anus, or other body parts.

Trichomoniasis is typically spread during vaginal sexual intercourse. However, it can also spread by sharing sex toys, making vulva-to-vulva contact, or touching your partner’s genitals with your hands or fingers after touching infected fluids. It otherwise cannot spread through casual contact, like hugging, kissing, sharing food, or holding hands. Despite the myths you’ve heard you can’t get it from sitting on a toilet seat.

To learn more about how this infection spreads, read our blog article answering the question, “Can you get Trichomoniasis without being sexually active?”

Symptoms of Trichomoniasis

Although trichomoniasis can infect anyone of any gender, the symptoms are more likely to be apparent in women. Most prominently, the infection causes vaginitis, which can lead to:

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge that has a foul odor and appears frothy, yellow, green, or gray
  • Itching and irritation in and around the vagina
  • Pain when having sex
  • Pain or burning when you urinate

Men rarely present with any noticeable symptoms. Men that do experience symptoms may notice:

  • General irritation in and around the penis
  • Penile discharge
  • Burning when urinating or ejaculating

How Long Can Trichomoniasis Be Dormant In a Woman?

Many people believe that trichomoniasis has some level of “dormancy” or latency, similar to symptoms of syphilis in females, hepatitis C symptoms in females, genital herpes, or other infections, and continue to participate in sexual activity. In reality, trichomoniasis simply doesn’t show signs or symptoms in most cases. About 7 out of 10 people with trichomoniasis show no symptoms. Even when symptoms do occur, those symptoms can be mild to the point of being unnoticeable or easily mistaken for other common conditions. Trichomoniasis symptoms in women, for instance, are fairly similar to your basic yeast infection or urinary tract infection.

Granted, the sexually transmitted infection can be highly painful and irritating for some people. When left untreated, trichomoniasis can stay in your system ostensibly for years. Symptoms may come and go, but you may simply think that you’re prone to yeast infections.

Testing for Trichomoniasis

Testing is the only way to know for sure if you have a trichomoniasis infection. If you notice any symptoms, like discharge or pain when peeing, you should always consult your nurse or doctor for an STD screening which may include a trichomoniasis test. You should also get tested if you have had unprotected sex with someone who may have trichomoniasis. Due to the general lack of symptoms, it may be beneficial to get tested annually for trichomoniasis and other STDs if you are sexually active.

There is no true dormancy period with trichomoniasis. If you have it, you have it. Your symptoms may just be too mild for you to realize it. Most importantly, you could be spreading it to your sexual partner(s). Find a local clinic to get tested, or consider the Everlywell STD test for women, which tests for trichomoniasis and six other common sexually transmitted infections.


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References

1. Trichomoniasis. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed July 15, 2021.

2. Trichomoniasis – CDC Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed July 15, 2021.

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