The Difference Between a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) and a Yeast Infection

UTI or Yeast Infection?

Most women experience a urinary tract infection (UTI) and/or a yeast infection at some point during their lifetime. UTIs and yeast infections can have similar symptoms, but require different treatments, so it’s important you understand the difference between them. Read on for more information.

How are UTIs and yeast infections similar?

In a nutshell, a urinary tract infection and a yeast infection are similar because they are both infections that cause discomfort in the vaginal area. They are also similar in that a woman can experience many UTIs and/or yeast infections over the course of her lifetime.

How are UTIs and yeast infections different?

UTIs and yeast infections are different because they are caused by different infectious agents. UTIs result from an overgrowth of bacteria in the urinary tract while yeast infections are usually caused by a fungus called Candida albicans.

UTIs and yeast infections also affect different parts of the female reproductive system. Yeast infections affect the vagina, while urinary tract infections can affect any part of the urinary tract, including the bladder, kidneys, ureters and urethra.

If left untreated, UTIs can cause a more serious infection to the kidney or potentially kidney damage. In certain cases, the infection may pass into the blood, causing a life-threatening blood infection called sepsis. Yeast infections, on the other hand, are more annoying than anything else and do not cause life-threatening complications.

What are the symptoms of UTIs and yeast infections?

The symptoms of a UTI and a yeast infection are similar in that they both cause pain and discomfort in the vaginal area, but there are some important differences.

UTI symptoms include:

  • A burning feeling when you pee
  • Frequent or intense urges to pee, even when you have little urine to pass
  • Pain in your back or side below the ribs
  • Cloudy, dark, bloody, or foul-smelling pee
  • Fever or chills

Yeast infection symptoms include:

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Painful urination
  • Pain during sex
  • Vaginal soreness or itching
  • Swelling or redness of the vulva

What are the treatments for UTIs and yeast infections?

Treatment for a urinary tract infection depends on the severity and location of the infection. For mild UTIs affecting the bladder or kidneys, your doctor or nurse will usually prescribe you a short course of antibiotics (3 to 5 days). If you are pregnant or have diabetes, you may need to take antibiotics for a longer period of time.

If your experience a more complicated UTI, or if the infection involves your kidneys or blood you may be required to be hospitalized to seek more aggressive treatment with intravenous (IV) antibiotics

Some women experience repeat or chronic UTIs and require more intense treatment, which usually involves taking antibiotics for months, or taking stronger antibiotics. You may also be prescribed preventive antibiotics, to be taken at the first sign of infection.

It’s important that you take your prescribed antibiotics exactly as directed, and that you finish your treatment course, even if your symptoms go away. If you do not, antibiotics can be less effective in the future.

Most urinary tract infections can be treated at a retail clinic such as the Healthcare Clinics in select Walgreens. You can easily book a Walgreens appointment through iTriage online or on your smartphone.

Yeast infection treatment usually involves purchasing and using an over-the-counter (OTC) cream or suppository. A suppository is inserted into the vagina.

You can find OTC treatments at most local grocery stores or pharmacies. OTC treatments vary in duration; some treatments are a one-time treatment, others last 3 or 7 days. Read and follow the package instructions carefully.

If you are pregnant, have diabetes, or are worried that you may have a sexually transmitted disease (STD), talk to your doctor. You will also want to talk to your doctor if you get repeat yeast infections, or if your yeast infection is accompanied by a fever or pelvic pain.

How can I prevent getting a UTI or yeast infection and maintain good vaginal and urinary tract health?

To prevent getting a UTI or a yeast infection, follow these steps from The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Keep yourself hydrated. People without kidney failure drink 6 to 8, 8 ounce glasses of water a day. Talk to your doctor about how much fluid is right for you.
  • Urinate often and when you feel the first urge. Bacteria can grow when urine stays in the bladder too long.
  • Urinate after having sex to flush away bacteria that may have entered your urethra during intercourse.
  • Wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes so that your urethra stays dry. Avoid wearing nylon underwear and tight-fitting jeans; these can trap moisture and help bacteria grow.
  • For some women, using a diaphragm or spermicide for birth control can lead to UTIs by increasing bacteria growth. If you have trouble with UTIs, try switching to a new form of birth control. Unlubricated condoms or spermicidal condoms increase irritation, which can help bacteria grow. Consider switching to lubricated condoms without spermicide or using a nonspermicidal lubricant.
  • Avoid douching and vaginal sprays and perfumed or colored toilet paper.
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