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How is trichomoniasis diagnosed in women?

For women, a trichomoniasis diagnosis based on symptoms is inadequate because many of these symptoms are shared with other inflammatory conditions of the vagina and cervix, such as bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections.

For women, the most common way to diagnose trichomoniasis is by physical examination of the pelvic area by a healthcare professional and by looking at a sample of vaginal fluid under a microscope (wet mounts) for the presence of protozoa.

A pelvic examination can reveal small red ulcerations on the vaginal wall or cervix. The wet mount technique, however, is accurate only about 60-70% of the time, as protozoa may be hard to find or mistaken for normal cells. It can also yield false positives. There also are several rapid-diagnostic kits available that can diagnose infection in 10 to 45 minutes. These tests also come with the risk of false positives.

More reliable tests have been developed, such as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, a type of nucleic acid test that uses enzymes to better detect the virus in the culture. It is very effective in identifying Trichomonas vaginalis in women and is becoming more readily available.

Because a test for vaginal infection is not necessarily a part of a routine pelvic exam, you can't assume your healthcare professional will test you for trichomoniasis. You should request trichomoniasis screening if you have symptoms or if you have been in contact with a high-risk sexual partner.

If you visit your healthcare professional to see if you have a vaginal infection, you should schedule your examination when you are not having your period.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.