Urinary tract infections (UTIs) and yeast infections, which commonly occur in women but can affect men, both can cause pain and discomfort in the genital area. And while they’re similar in how you can prevent them, they have different causes, symptoms, and treatments.
The main differences between UTIs and yeast infections are that UTIs are typically caused by bacteria and affect the lower urinary tract, including the bladder and urethra, whereas yeast infections are caused by Candida fungus and most often affect the vagina.
Does a UTI or Yeast Infection Smell?
Regarding UTI vs. yeast infection symptoms, an odor is one area where the two differ. UTIs cause urine that’s cloudy or discolored, may contain blood and has a strong odor. Yeast infections produce a thick, white, odorless vaginal discharge.
Is There Itching With a UTI?
Pain or a burning sensation when urinating is a symptom of UTIs — itching typically isn’t. However, itching is common with yeast infections, as is a burning sensation in the genitals and swelling of the vagina and vulva.
What Causes a UTI Versus a Yeast Infection?
Several factors can increase the risk of developing a UTI. Being female is one of them. Females have a urethra that is much shorter than the urethra in males, which makes it easier for bacteria near the vagina to get into the bladder. Other UTI risk factors include:
- Urinating but not emptying the bladder
- Wiping from back to front after a bowel movement
- Having sex
- Using certain contraceptive methods, including spermicides and diaphragms
- Kidney or bladder stones
- Having a urinary catheter
It’s common to have yeast cells in various places on the body. A yeast infection is an overgrowth of that yeast and, in addition to the vagina, it can affect the mouth, throat, gut, anus, or penis. Regarding vaginal yeast infections in particular (which are sometimes called candidiasis or vaginal thrush), risk factors include:
- Using birth control that contains high doses of estrogen
- Wearing tight underwear or other clothes that trap heat and moisture in the genital area
- Being pregnant
- Weakened immune system
- Taking or recently having completed a course of antibiotics
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Using vaginal sprays or douches
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Will a UTI or Yeast Infection Go Away on Its Own?
It can be dangerous to avoid treatment for a UTI or yeast infection. While a very mild UTI or yeast infection can go away on its own, it may worsen if untreated and cause serious complications. For example, an untreated UTI can result in a kidney infection.
If you think you have a UTI or yeast infection, you should contact your doctor. There are effective treatments for both conditions. This includes over-the-counter medications for yeast infections.
Prevention: Yeast Infection vs. Urinary Tract Infection
The actions you can take to prevent a yeast infection vs. a urinary tract infection are the same.
- Avoiding clothing that’s tight or restrictive
- Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water
- Urinating when you feel the need to go rather than holding it in
- Urinating before and after sex
- Wiping from front to back after a bowel movement
- Changing out of exercise clothes and swimsuits as soon as you’re done with the activity
- Changing female sanitary products often
- Avoiding the use of scented feminine hygiene products, vaginal sprays, and douches
Can a Yeast Infection Act Like a UTI?
If you never have been diagnosed with a vaginal yeast infection or a UTI, it can be hard to tell the two apart since their symptoms are somewhat similar. Ovarian cysts, interstitial cystitis, bacterial vaginosis, and other conditions can cause symptoms similar to yeast infections and UTIs, making self-diagnosis even more challenging.
That’s why it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor any time you have significant pain or discomfort in your abdominal or genital area.
Get Help with UTIs and Yeast Infections From Your Baptist Health Doctor
UTIs and yeast infections are very common. If you think you have one or the other or both — yes, you can have a yeast infection and a UTI at the same time — contact your Baptist Health doctor. If you don’t yet have a doctor, you can find one in our online provider directory.
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