Trichomoniasis vs. yeast infection: what’s the difference?

Medically reviewed by Neka Miller, PhD on January 21, 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.


Vaginal health plays a key role in your general health and well-being, but much like any other part of the body, the vagina is susceptible to infection. Trichomoniasis and yeast infections are two of the most common vaginal infections. While they can present with similar symptoms, these are two distinct conditions and it’s worth understanding how they’re different. So keep reading to learn more about trichomoniasis vs. yeast infection, including what they’re caused by, symptoms, and more.


Test for trichomoniasis from the convenience and privacy of home with the Everlywell at-home Trichomoniasis Test. The test is easy to take and the kit includes everything you need for collecting a sample at home and sending it to a lab for testing.


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What is trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis is a common, curable sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is caused by a microscopic parasite known as Trichomonas vaginalis, a type of single-celled protozoan organism. How do you get trichomoniasis and how easily does it spread?

This parasite travels easily through sexual fluids, including semen, pre-cum, and vaginal secretions, but it can also pass via vulva-to-vulva contact, sharing sex toys, or touching genitals while you have infected fluids on your hands.

One challenging aspect of this sexually transmitted disease is that it often does not present with any noticeable symptoms. About 7 out of 10 people with trichomoniasis don’t exhibit any symptoms. This is one of the key differentiators between having trichomoniasis as opposed to bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection. (Related: Trichomoniasis vs. BV)

What are the symptoms of trichomoniasis, and how do they differ from other vaginal infections? Often the most common symptom in women is a vaginal discharge that is yellow, gray, white, or green in color. This may also be accompanied by:

  • Redness, burning, or itching in the genitals
  • Pain or discomfort when urinating
  • Painful sexual intercourse

Men with trichomoniasis rarely show any symptoms, but those who do may experience:

  • Irritation or inflammation in the penis
  • Discharge from the penis
  • Pain when urinating or ejaculating

If you’re experiencing symptoms such as these, consider taking a trichomoniasis test.

What is a yeast infection?

A vaginal yeast infection is caused by an overgrowth of yeast within the vaginal flora (the community of microbes that live within the vagina). A normal, healthy vagina naturally has a relatively small yeast population, but changes to genital chemistry, vaginal pH, and hormones can cause that yeast to grow out of control, resulting in a fungal infection. Yeast infections are medically known as vaginal candidiasis because they are most often caused by a type of fungal yeast known as candida.

Vaginal yeast infections can be quite irritating and uncomfortable. It can include symptoms such as itching, burning, and redness—all of which may only get worse if the infection remains untreated, further disrupting the vaginal flora. Yeast infections can also lead to:

  • Vaginal discharge that appears thick, white, and clumpy (though usually odorless)
  • Pain or discomfort during sex
  • Burning or stinging sensation when urinating
  • Sores and fissures on the vagina and vulva (in severe cases)

What’s the difference?

At first blush, vaginal trichomoniasis and yeast infections caused by candida overgrowth appear similar, and they do share similarities, particularly in the symptoms that they present. However, they also have distinct differences that determine how they should be handled and treated.

Presence of symptoms

As mentioned above, trichomoniasis does not often present noticeable vaginal symptoms, which is partly why this sexually transmitted infection is so easily spread. By comparison, yeast infections present very obvious vaginal symptoms in nearly every case.

Causes and modes of transmission

Trichomoniasis is caused by the Trichomonas vaginalis parasite, while yeast infections are caused by a fungus (usually the candida yeast). These are two distinct types of organisms that exist and reproduce in different ways.

Trichomoniasis is also a strictly sexually transmitted infection. This means that it can only be transmitted through sexual intercourse and related activities. Yeast infections, on the other hand, can be caused even without having sex. Yeast infections occur when your vaginal pH goes out of balance, allowing for candida overgrowth. Changes to your vaginal chemistry can be caused by:

  • Hormonal fluctuations (such as during menstrual cycles)
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Certain drugs, including cortisone and certain antibiotics

Yeast infections often aren’t sexually transmitted, but sexual contact can naturally alter the vaginal environment and potentially trigger the overgrowth of yeast. A yeast infection can also potentially affect parts of the body such as the tongue, throat, and mouth as a result of oral sex.

Treatments

In most cases, trichomoniasis can be effectively treated with certain antibiotics. Yeast infections can be treated with an antifungal medication. Medicated creams and suppositories for yeast infections are readily available and can be obtained without a prescription.


Easily check for trichomoniasis from the comfort of home with the at-home Trichomoniasis Test. If positive results are detected with this test, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with our independent physician network and may receive treatment.


How do you get trichomoniasis?


References

1. Trichomoniasis - CDC Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed January 21, 2021.

2. Yeast infection (vaginal): Symptoms & causes. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed January 21, 2021.

3. Yeast infection (vaginal): Diagnosis & treatment. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed January 21, 2021.

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