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.
Symptoms may include an intense urge to urinate, but with minimal urine production; a burning sensation when you urinate; cloudy or foul-smelling urine; and sometimes pain in the center of the pelvis or in your back.2
Causes and Symptoms of 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
This infection is itchy and uncomfortable, and other symptoms include 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
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
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.
Use our Physician Finder to seek out a women’s health specialist in your area, so you can be sure to deal with any health concern.