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Yeast Infection vs. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

What is a yeast infection? What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)?

Yeast infections and UTIs both cause painful urination.
Yeast infections and UTIs both cause painful urination.

A yeast infection is an infection with any type of yeast, but people commonly use the term to refer to vaginal yeast infections in women. A yeast known as Candida albicans typically causes vaginal yeast infections. Vaginal yeast infections are also referred to as vaginal Candidiasis. In contrast, a urinary tract infection (UTI) is not an infection of the vagina but of the urinary tract (the lower urinary tract is made up of the urethra and bladder). Bacteria are the main cause of UTIs, and the most common bacterial cause of a UTI is E. coli.

How do the causes and risk factors of a yeast infection differ from the causes of a UTI?

Typically, UTIs occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract at the urethra. This can happen during sexual intercourse in women or due to improper wiping after a bowel movement. A vaginal yeast infection usually occurs when something alters the normal balance of yeast and bacteria in the vagina, allowing excessive growth of the yeast. Suppression of immune function can increase the likelihood of developing both UTIs and yeast infections. Antibiotic use, diabetes, and impaired immune systems are all possible causes of a yeast infection.

Are UTIs and yeast infections contagious?

It is possible for a woman to transmit a yeast infection to a male sex partner, even though yeast infection is not considered to be a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Yeast infections can occur in women who are not sexually active. UTIs are not contagious.

What are the signs and symptoms of yeast infections and UTIs?

The most common symptoms of a UTI include

A mild fever may be present. Yeast infections are characterized by

  • intense itching,
  • a thick white-gray vaginal discharge that may resemble cottage cheese,
  • vaginal burning or irritation,
  • painful intercourse, and
  • pain or burning during urination.

Vaginal or vulvar swelling, redness, and soreness may be present.

What exams do doctors use to diagnose a yeast infection and a UTI?

Urine tests diagnose a UTI. Abnormalities can appear on a dipstick urinalysis test that suggest a UTI is present. Sometimes medical professionals take a culture of the urine to determine the type of bacteria causing the infection. A physical exam and an examination of a sample of the vaginal discharge in the laboratory can confirm the presence of a yeast infection.

What are treatments and home remedies for yeast infections and UTIs?

There are no home remedies that can cure either a yeast infection or a UTI. Prescription antibiotics are required for the treatment of a UTI, and antifungal drugs are required for treatment of a yeast infection. Some antifungal drugs are available over the counter. Depending on the frequency and duration of yeast infections, your provider will choose different therapies and lengths of treatment.

What is the prognosis and duration of a UTI compared to a yeast infection?

Both a UTI and yeast infection should resolve rapidly once appropriate treatment has begun. With both conditions, repeat infections or recurrences are common, but long-term complications are very rare.

Is it possible to prevent UTIs and yeast infections?

Careful attention to hygiene may help prevent some UTIs. This includes always cleaning the genital area from front to back. This practice can also help prevent yeast infections, as well as changing out of wet bathing suits or damp clothes as soon as possible. Loose-fitting cotton underwear can help reduce moisture in the genital area and may help prevent yeast infections. Avoiding products with potential irritants like douches or scented tampons can also help prevent yeast infections. However, it is not possible to completely prevent either condition from developing.

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Reviewed on 12/20/2019
References
Jameson, J. Larry, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.
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