If you’ve ever had a urinary tract infection (UTI), and you’ve also suffered from a yeast infection, you might be wondering if the two are connected.
You may also be confused by the two and unsure about what you’re feeling. They are both infections, but they aren’t the same thing. A UTI is a bacterial infection that occurs in any part of the urinary tract, which contains the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys. A yeast infection is a fungal infection that affects the genitalia, caused by a natural fungus that gets off balance.1
But can a yeast infection cause a UTI?
Causes and Symptoms of UTIs
UTIs most often impact the bladder, occurring when bacteria work its way into the urinary tract. They can be a painful nuisance, but can be serious if the infection impacts the kidneys. Bacteria is often introduced from stool, such as when you don’t wipe from front to back after going to the washroom.
A bladder infection, also known as cystitis, is a specific type of UTI that affects the bladder. It occurs when bacteria enter the bladder and multiply, causing inflammation and irritation of the bladder lining. Bladder infections are one of the most common forms of UTIs.
Symptoms may include an intense urge to urinate, but with minimal urine production; a burning sensation when you urinate; cloudy urine or foul-smelling urine; frequent urination; and sometimes pain in the center of the pelvis or in your back.2
Causes and Symptoms of Vaginal Yeast Infections
A yeast infection happens when the vagina, which is normally populated with healthy bacteria, is overwhelmed by a type of fungus known as Candida albicans.2 This fungus is normal and lives in your body in small amounts. But when it gets off-balance with other bacteria, it can create infections like thrush and vaginal yeast infections.3
Yeast infection symptoms can include being itchy and uncomfortable, redness, burning and swelling of the vulva (the outer portion of the female genitals), as well as sometimes a white, odorless discharge. It can be confused with a UTI as it sometimes causes a burning sensation when urinating.2
Understanding Your Symptoms
Vaginal discharge is a common symptom of a yeast infection. Here’s what you should look for if you suspect you have a yeast infection:
- Thick, White, Cottage Cheese-Like Discharge: A hallmark sign of a yeast infection is a thick, white discharge that resembles cottage cheese in texture.
- Odorless: Unlike some other vaginal infections, such as bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections typically do not produce a strong or foul odor. The discharge is usually odorless or may have a faint, yeasty smell.
Can a Yeast Infection Cause a UTI?
Since they share some similar symptoms, and they are both infections of those “lower” organs, it leads to the question of whether one can cause the other?
First, one of the causes of a yeast infection is recent use of antibiotics that sets the bacteria off-balance. Since UTIs are often treated with antibiotics, that creates a connection for some women. It’s also possible to have both infections at the same time.1
While many health practitioners say that yeast infections are not known to cause UTIs1, there are some studies emerging that in fact show a connection.
One study, although done several years ago, looked at the frequency of urinary tract infections and their association with Candida albicans over the course of two years.4
The results of this study showed that 7% of patients had UTIs associated with a yeast infection, while 93% had UTIs related to bacterial pathogens.4 The researchers also stated that in the two decades prior to conducting the study, the fungal UTIs due to Candida genus yeast had increased significantly.4
A more recent study conducted at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has uncovered a trigger of recurrent UTI infections: a type of vaginal bacteria that moves into the urinary tract. So while this doesn’t mean yeast infections cause UTIs, it does mean that a type of vaginal bacteria can be the culprit for recurring UTIs.5
Researchers found that a particular vaginal bacteria known as Gardnerella vaginalis did not cause infection during exposure to the urinary tract. Instead, it damaged the cells on the surface of the bladder and caused E. coli from a previous UTI to start multiplying, leading to another UTI.5
While the study was conducted on mice, it did find a connection. After the bladders of female mice were injected with E. coli, and then G. vaginalis, more than half the mice suffered a recurrent UTI. Those in the two other control groups were about five times less likely to develop another UTI.5
Use our Physician Finder to seek out a women’s health specialist for medical advice in your area, so you can be sure to deal with any health concern.
Risk Factors: Taking Precautions to Mitigate a Yeast Infection or UTI
Both urinary tract infections (UTIs) and yeast infections can be influenced by various risk factors in women. Here are some of the key risk factors associated.
Risk Factors for UTIs in Women:
- Anatomy: Women have a shorter urethra than men, which means bacteria have a shorter distance to travel to reach the bladder, making them more susceptible to UTIs.
- Sexual Activity: Sexual intercourse, especially with a new partner or frequent sexual activity, can introduce bacteria into the urinary tract, increasing the risk of infection.
- Birth Control: The use of certain forms of birth control, such as diaphragms and spermicides, can potentially increase the risk of UTIs.
- Pregnancy: Hormonal changes during pregnancy can affect the urinary tract, making UTIs more common in pregnant women.
- Menopause: Hormonal changes after menopause can lead to thinning of the vaginal walls and changes in the urinary tract, increasing the risk of UTIs.
- Urinary Retention: Conditions that prevent the bladder from emptying fully, such as urinary retention, can increase the likelihood of UTIs.
- Catheter Use: Inserting a catheter into the bladder can introduce bacteria and increase the risk of infection.
- Previous UTIs: Having had a UTI in the past may make a woman more susceptible to future infections.
UTI’s can also be triggered by unmanaged diabetes, the overuse of feminine hygiene products like a douch, over-washing your vaginal area, or frequent bubble baths. Some women are more susceptible then others.
Risk Factors for Yeast Infections in Women:
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics can disrupt the balance of vaginal flora, making it easier for yeast to overgrow and cause an infection.
- Pregnancy: Hormonal changes during pregnancy can increase the risk of yeast infections.
- Diabetes: Women with poorly controlled diabetes are at a higher risk of yeast infections, as elevated blood sugar levels can promote yeast growth.
- Weakened Immune System: Conditions or medications that weaken the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS or corticosteroids, can make women more susceptible to yeast infections.
- Hormonal Birth Control: Some forms of hormonal birth control, like birth control pills and hormonal IUDs, can increase the risk of yeast infections in some women.
- Clothing Choices: Wearing tight-fitting, non-breathable clothing, such as nylon underwear or wet swimsuits for extended periods, can create a warm, moist environment that promotes yeast growth.
- Diet: A diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates can potentially contribute to yeast overgrowth.
- Stress: Stress can weaken the immune system and potentially increase the risk of yeast infections.
- Sexual Activity: While not a direct cause, sexual activity can sometimes lead to yeast infections, particularly if there is a change in the balance of vaginal flora.
Any time you have a change in your body, such as when it burns to urinate or you have back pain, you should see a doctor. You may have a UTI or a yeast infection, and there are differences in how they are treated as the type of infection matters.
There are some over-the-counter (OTC) tests and home remedies available for detecting and managing urinary tract infections (UTIs) and yeast infections, but it’s important to note that self-diagnosis and treatment at home may not always be accurate or sufficient.
At-Home UTI Test Strips: You can purchase OTC UTI test strips that allow you to test your urine for signs of infection, such as the presence of nitrites or leukocyte esterase. These tests can indicate the likelihood of a UTI, but they may not specify the type of bacteria causing the infection.
However, even if you test positive for a UTI, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare provider for confirmation and appropriate treatment. UTIs can vary in severity and may require antibiotics prescribed by a doctor. Additionally, untreated UTIs can lead to kidney infections, so professional evaluation is essential.
Over-the-Counter Treatments for yeast infections: Over-the-counter antifungal medications, such as creams, suppositories, or oral tablets, are available for the treatment of uncomplicated yeast infections. You can use these medications if you are confident that you have a yeast infection based on your previous experiences and the current symptoms.
Vaginal infections, such as bacterial vaginosis, can have similar symptoms but require different treatments. A healthcare provider can accurately diagnose your condition and recommend the appropriate treatment.
Both types of infections including yeast infections and urinary tract infections (UTIs) can, if left untreated or undermanaged, potentially lead to more severe kidney infections. However, it’s important to note that kidney infections are not a direct result of yeast infections but are associated with UTIs.
Use our Physician Finder to seek out a women’s health specialist for medical advice in your area, so you can be sure to deal with any health concern with a registered health care provider.