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UTI Or Yeast Infection—How To Tell The Difference

There are medical conditions that have similar symptoms, making them hard to differentiate.

Celiac disease, for instance, has a variety of side effects, from gastrointestinal problems to headaches or rashes. As a result, it can be misdiagnosed or mistaken for other conditions.1

Certain pelvic disorders are also easy to confuse, with symptoms so similar that a proper diagnosis is better than guessing. Fibroids and cysts are one example. 

Another is urinary tract infections and yeast infections. Similar in some ways, these infections commonly occur in women, and both can cause pain and discomfort in the genital area. They may be similar in how you can prevent them, but they have different causes, symptoms, and treatments.2

Here’s how to tell the difference.

Urinary Tract Infections vs. Yeast Infections

Some of the symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections and yeast infections are similar or overlap. But their causes, treatment, and complications are different.3

UTIs are among the most common bacterial infections in humans, affecting millions of people every year.4 It’s also estimated that about 20% of women will have a UTI at some point during their lives.5

These infections are most often caused by the bacteria E. coli.4 Your urinary system consists of your kidneys, urethra and bladder, and a UTI occurs when bacteria gets into your urinary system, typically through your urethra to infect your bladder. But the infection can also travel up to infect your kidneys, which can be dangerous.5

A yeast infection, on the other hand, is a fungal infection most often occuring in the vagina. It causes irritation, discharge and intense itchiness of the vagina and the vulva—the tissues at the vaginal opening. The fungus candida albicans is responsible for most vaginal yeast infections, occurring when the balance of naturally occurring substances in your vagina are disrupted.6

For instance, certain bacteria act to prevent an overgrowth of yeast, but if that balance is disrupted, an overgrowth of candida can occur. It’s estimated that vaginal yeast infections affect up to 3 out of 4 women at some point in their lifetimes.6

UTI Or Yeast Infection—How To Tell The Difference

These two conditions have some symptoms that overlap—like a burning sensation in your genitals. So how do you tell the difference? 

It’s easiest to compare using a chart that looks at the different causes, impacts and symptoms:

Urinary Tract InfectionsYeast Infections
Most commonly caused by bacteria.2Caused by Candida fungus.2
Affect the lower urinary tract, most often the bladder and urethra.2Most often affect the vagina.2
May cause urine that’s cloudy or discolored, or may contain blood, and has a strong odor.2Yeast infections do not have an odor, but produce a thick, white, odorless vaginal discharge.2 This has sometimes been described as being similar to cottage cheese, and is a characteristic not found with a UTI.3
Can cause pain or a burning sensation when urinating.2Often result in itching, along with a burning sensation in the genitals and swelling of the vagina and vulva.2

Treatment for each condition also varies, although both are easily treatable. Doctors usually suggest antibiotics for UTIs, with the dosage depending on the severity of your symptoms.3 While you might hope that a UTI will go away on its own, it typically takes medication to get rid of the infection. And left untreated, serious health problems can result if a UTI spreads to the kidneys.7

Yeast infections are fungal so they don’t respond to antibiotics. Instead, a yeast infection is often treated with over-the-counter antifungal medications, which come in the form of creams, oral tablets, ointments or suppositories. Mild yeast infections may go away on their own, but it is best to consult a doctor as they can become severe.3

Seek Diagnosis 

If you have symptoms that could be either a UTI or a yeast infection, it’s best to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you with expertise in women’s health issues, rather than try and self-diagnose your condition. Make note of your symptoms to help the doctor determine your condition. In particular, an acute or complicated UTI can lead to potentially fatal conditions such as sepsis, and also carry a higher risk that treatment will fail.8

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