UTI vs. Yeast Infection: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment
Urinary tract infections and yeast infections share similar symptoms, but the treatment method is entirely different. So, it is essential to properly diagnose whether you have a urinary tract infection or a yeast infection to get proper treatment.
Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria, whereas yeast infections are caused by a type of fungi. These two different types of organisms require different compounds to eliminate them and clear the infection. In this article, we will discuss the difference between a yeast infection and a urinary tract infection.
What Is a Urinary Tract Infection?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of any part of the urinary tract, including the urethra, bladder, and kidneys. (1) Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria that enter the urinary tract, resulting in an infection and inflammation. Most commonly, urinary tract infections occur when bacteria from feces enter the urinary tract.
Escherichia coli (E. coli) is the most common bacteria that cause urinary tract infections. While other types of bacteria may cause infections as well, E. coli is the cause of nearly 90 percent of infections. (2)
What Causes a Urinary Tract Infection?
Urinary tract infections occur when bacteria enter the urinary system. They are more common in women, though men can also get a urinary tract infection. UTIs are more common in women because the female urethra is shorter and closer to the anus, where bacteria can more easily contaminate. Women can accidentally transfer bacteria from the anus to the urethra when wiping, especially if they wipe from back to front. (3)
This is actually one of the most common ways women get urinary tract infections. So, it is important to always wipe from front to back to ensure that you avoid contaminating your urethra with bacteria.
UTIs are less common in men, but they do occur. The most common cause of male UTIs is unprotected anal sex, which exposes the urethra to E. coli bacteria that enter the penis and cause an infection in the urinary tract.
In some cases, the cause of a urinary tract infection is unknown.
How Common Are Urinary Tract Infections?
Urinary tract infections are quite common. Research suggests that 1 out of 5 women will get a UTI at some point in their lifetime. Research also shows that up to 10 million doctor visits each year are for urinary tract infections. Urinary tract infections may also be more common among older people. (3)
What Are the Symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection?
When someone has a urinary tract infection, the lining of the urinary tract becomes red and inflamed and may cause painful symptoms. Some of the common symptoms of a UTI include:
- Frequent or urgent need to urinate, especially at night
- Urinary incontinence (leakage)
- Painful urination
- Blood in the urine
- Cloudy or abnormally colored urine
- Pain in the abdomen or pelvis
- Pain during sex
- Pain in the penis
How Is a Urinary Tract Infection Diagnosed?
Typically, UTIs are diagnosed via a urine analysis test (urinalysis). This tests for white or red blood cells and bacteria, which can signify infection. A urine culture test may also be done. In complex cases, an ultrasound or CT scan may be performed. (3)
How Do You Treat a Urinary Tract Infection?
Urinary tract infections are primarily treated with antibiotic medications. However, exactly what antibiotic is prescribed may depend on the type of bacteria found in the diagnostic test. Some natural alternatives that people use to standard antibiotics include wildcrafted oregano oil, garlic, and D-mannose, though more research needs to be done on these natural remedies.
What Is a Yeast Infection?
While bacteria cause urinary tract infections, yeast infections are caused by yeast, a type of single-celled fungi. The most common yeast species that cause infections is Candida albicans. (4) While bacterial infections occur when a foreign bacterium enters the urinary tract, yeast infections have a different pathology.
Candida already exists in many places in the body, including the gut, skin, mouth and vagina. Typically, this yeast does not cause any issues. However, when there is an imbalance of healthy bacteria to keep the yeast under control, it can grow out of balance, resulting in a yeast infection or Candida overgrowth. (4)
A Candida infection of the vagina is known as vaginal candidiasis, whereas a yeast infection of the penis is called Candida balanitis.
What Causes a Yeast Infection?
The vagina and skin naturally contain a balanced mix of yeast and bacteria. However, when this balance is disrupted, it can allow Candida to grow beyond normal levels, leading to an infection. This balance can be disrupted by certain illnesses, diets, or from the prolonged use of antibiotics.
This is one of the primary reasons it is so important to identify whether you have a yeast infection or a UTI. If you suspect you have a UTI but really have a yeast infection, and take antibiotics to treat it, it may only make the yeast infection worse by eliminating the beneficial bacteria that keep yeast under control. (5)
How Common Are Yeast Infections?
Vaginal yeast infections are extremely common. Research suggests up to 3 out of 4 women will have a vaginal yeast infection at some point in their lives, with many women experiencing at least two episodes. (6)
In men, yeast infections are less common. They also tend to be more common among men that are not circumcised. Studies estimate that 3 to 11 percent of men will have a yeast infection in their lives. (7)
What Are the Symptoms of a Yeast Infection?
The most common symptoms of vaginal or penile yeast infections include:
- Rash (8)
How Do You Diagnose a Yeast Infection?
To diagnose a yeast infection, your doctor will discuss your symptoms, examine your reproductive organ (penis or vagina), and may need to collect a sample of discharge for testing if possible.
How Do You Treat a Yeast Infection?
Yeast infections are typically treated with antifungal medications. These are typically taken for a few days to a week. However, recurring yeast infections are common, so it is important to focus on good vaginal health and supporting your microbiome to encourage healthy bacteria. Certain practices (like douching, for example) can also affect vaginal pH, which may kill beneficial bacteria and should be avoided.
Some vaginal Candida infections can also be caused by a deeper, more systemic Candida infection in the gut. Because of this, people often benefit from doing a Candida cleanse, especially if they are experiencing recurring yeast infections. It is also important to focus on colonizing the gut with beneficial bacteria that can keep Candida populations under control.
Yeast Infection vs UTI: Similarities and Differences
When comparing UTI vs yeast infection, we can see there are a lot of similarities but also many distinct differences. For example, the most significant difference is that a UTI is caused by bacteria, whereas a type of fungi causes a yeast infection. Similarly, UTIs require antibiotic medications for treatment whereas yeast infections require antifungal medications.
They do, however, share some similar symptoms. Some of the yeast infection symptoms vs UTI symptoms that are shared include:
- Pain in the penis or vagina
- Painful sensation when urinating
There are some distinct differences in UTI vs yeast infection symptoms, too. UTIs typically cause:
- Urinary frequency
- Urinary urgency
- Cloudy or abnormally colored urine
- Pain in the abdomen
- Fever, nausea, vomiting (in more severe infections)
Yeast infections typically cause:
- Redness (inflammation)
So, while there are some shared symptoms, they are also quite different. Still, it is best to consult with your doctor if you are concerned about having any type of infection, as your doctor will be able to provide the best testing and treatment protocols to help clear your infection.
Urinary tract infections and yeast infections are common infections of the urinary tract and reproductive organs. Though they share some similar symptoms, other symptoms are quite unique to each type of infection.
Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria, whereas yeast infections are caused by a type of fungi. These two different types of organisms require different compounds to eliminate them and clear the infection. This is why it is important to make sure you get a proper diagnosis to know how to best treat the infection.
If you are concerned about a UTI or yeast infection, consult your doctor as soon as possible to seek treatment. The sooner you treat the infection, the better, as untreated infections can lead to more severe health issues.