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Chlamydia or Trichomonas?
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The STD Forum is intended only for questions and support pertaining to sexually transmitted diseases other than HIV/AIDS, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, human papillomavirus, genital warts, trichomonas, other vaginal infections, nongonoccal urethritis (NGU), cervicitis, molluscum contagiosum, chancroid, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). All questions will be answered by H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D. or Edward W Hook, MD.

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Chlamydia or Trichomonas?

In 1988 I had unprotected sex with a virgin(that was what she said anyway). This was in late October to early November of 1988.
Toward the middle of November I had unprotected sex with another girl.  In mid December I one day found a yellow stain in my underwear. Later that day I found more and noticed that my penis felt itchy on the inside.  It was like the urethra was very itchy , and rolling this part around with your fingers would relieve the itch somewhat. This went on for a few days and all the while I could milk my penis and make this yellow substance come out. These symptoms lasted about a week and they went away for a few days and they then returned. I never had a burning sensation when I urinated. I was young and the thought of an STD didn't occur to me.  Someone suggested that I go to the health department to get checked out. A nurse examined me and had me milk my penis in order to capture some of the discharge. She came back about 5 minutes later and said she thought that I had Chlamydia, but that she wasn't sure. She asked me a few questions about my sexual history and I explained the girls and the time frame. Toward the end of the conversation she mentioned that if one of the girls had a strong vagina odor that what I had was probably something else.  I was embarrassed to tell her that the first girl I slept with (the supposed virgin) had an awful odor. The nurse gave me some type of pills and the infection went away.

I have always wondered if I really had Chlamydia. I have been doing research, and I think I had Trichomonas. What do you think? From the first girl (the foul virgin!) to the symptoms was about 6 weeks. From the second girl to the symptoms was about 2 to 3 weeks. I didn't tell the HD about the smelly vagina. (I was young and stupid). The nurse told me to call the last girl I was with and tell her that I had Chlamydia so she could go and get checked. The nurse told me that I got it from her. I did call the girl and tell her about it and a week later she called me back and told me that she had been to her Gyno and that she was clean.
I never called the first girl.

What do you think I had based on my description. Thank you very much for what you do here at this forum.

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All that can be said for certain is that you had nongonococcal urethritis (NGU).  Gonorrhea is easily diagnosed by examining discharge under the microscope, which undoubtedly was what the nurse (probably actually a nurse practitioner or physician assistant) was doing when out of the exam room for 5 minutes.  Roughly 30%-40% of NGU cases are caused by chlamydia, but back in 1988 many people assumed or believed that chlamydia caused almost all cases.  Thus the diagnosis you were given.  Before the early 1990s, actual testing for chlamydia was uncommon, and in any case no chlamydia test gives results in a few minutes.

Could it have been trichomonas instead of chlamydia?  In theory, yes.  But trich almost never causes symptoms in men, and research studies have consistently shown that only 1-2% of men with NGU have that disease.  So NGU due to chlamydia or other (unknown) causes is by far the best bet.  Vaginal odor results from bacterial vaginosis as well as trichomonas and is more common than trich.

Finally, that your second partner was "clean" after an exam by her gynecologist can't be relied on, especially since tests for chlamydia generally weren't easily available (and weren't all that good, i.e. many people with the infection had negative test results).  I hope she did well thereafter.

Thanks for your kind comment about the Forum.  Best wishes--

HHH, MD
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Thank you for your reply.  The nurse did indeed go and look at the discharge under a microscope and she told me she knew that it wasn't gonorrhea based on that.

You mentioned bacterial vaginosis. If the supposed virgin had bacterial vaginosis could that have caused my NGU? I realize that I have had an STD (As much as I wouuld like to think that I haven't), but what I am wondering is if the supposed virgin had bacterial vaginosis could she have had that without receiving an STD from someone else? Could that have been just some sort of female problem that she was having at the time. She was 16 at the time if that makes a difference.  

Part of me is hoping that she just had some type of female problem and that it wasn't because she had received an STD from someone else and then passed it to me. I hope this makes sense.

As far as my second partner goes she was very angry with me for a long time and we didn't speak for many years.  I guess she was mad b/c she thought I was blaming her for my problem. We actually both relocated and ended up now living 5 houses apart on the same street!

Our kids go to the same school and she will speak to me, but we don't converse. The supposed virgin is also fine. She is married with two kids.

I really do appreciate the way you give answers to us here at this forum. Most of us are either scared or confused. You have a way of answering without panicking us.  For that I thank you very much.  I am glad that Medhelp has the STD forum, but I am very thankful that you are the person that is answering our questions.



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I can't comment further on what health problems might have been present in your partner(s) 16 years ago.  But it's probably worth saying that, depending on what else they do sexually, technical virgins can acquire STDs and other sexually related infections like bacterial vaginosis.

And of course I can't advise about your relationship with your former partner.  But I can't resist saying we are all very different people than we were 16 years ago, and none of us wants to be judged forever by how we behaved in our teens or early twenties. (A gentleman known as W comes to mind.)  Seems to me it's time to get over it.

Good luck--   HHH, MD
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