UTI vs. Yeast Infection - Understanding the Differences
It’s a beautiful Sunday morning and you’re meeting your girlfriends for brunch at your favorite spot. You’re about to leave the house, but first you run to the lady’s room for a quick “tee tee” (the polite Southern way of saying “tinkle” or #1). You sit down on the toilet, start going and quickly realize that . . .
Your lady business is on FIRE!!!!
Not again. 3rd time this year. What is it this time? A UTI or a yeast infection? The last “doctor” at the urgent care had no idea and you suffered for a week before getting help.
Sound familiar? I’m sorry if it does. Fear not. At VirtuCare our board-certified urologists are here to help.
Let’s first figure out whether you have a UTI vs.a yeast infection so you can get the care you deserve. Fast. Because those warm cinnamon rolls and latte are calling your name.
UTI vs. Yeast Infection: Definitions
A urinary tract infection is inflammation of the urinary tract (kidney, bladder, prostate, or urethra) typically caused by a bacteria. UTI is a generic term which encompasses many different types of infections. Most commonly, a UTI is used to describe a bladder infection (more definitions in our urology glossary).
On the other hand, when a woman says “I think I have a yeast infection” she is typically describing an infection of the external genitalia (vulva, labia) or vagina. Obviously these are caused by yeast rather than bacteria.
Now technically yeast infections can occur anywhere on the skin where moisture is trapped. Usually this occurs in skin folds (e.g. breast, groin, under the belly, foreskin in men but who cares about them right now).
To confuse things further, some people can have a urinary tract infection caused by yeast (wait what?). Yeast UTIs are usually seen in patients with urinary catheters, poorly controlled diabetes or lots of other medical problems. My guess is that if you’re reading this article then that’s not you.
UTI vs. Yeast Infection: Signs and Symptoms
Back to your lady business. How do you know if you have a UTI vs. yeast infection? Here are the common signs and symptoms of each:
Signs You May Have A UTI
- Burning with urination
- Frequent, urgent urination
- Low back and/or pelvic pain
- Fevers, chills, nausea or vomiting
- Cloudy, stinky urine
Signs You May Have A Yeast Infection
- Burning of the external genitalia at rest
- Sometimes burning with urination
- Redness of external genitalia
- Vaginal discharge
If you’re going to the bathroom every 15 minutes, then it’s probably a UTI.
If you’re uncomfortable, itchy and red “down there,” then it’s probably a yeast infection.
If you have all of the above symptoms, then you might have both (OMG).
UTI vs. Yeast Infection: Causes
Despite the old wive’s tales that continue to circulate the interwebs, if you have a UTI or a yeast infection you are not “dirty”. And no, “not wiping properly” probably has little to do with either as well.
First things first. UTIs and yeast infections are really common. 50-75% of women will have at least one UTI or yeast infection at some point in their life.
UTIs are more common in early adulthood. This is due to an onset of sexual activity and high hormone levels. UTIs are also common after menopause when a decrease in estrogen levels lowers the bladder’s defense mechanisms against bacteria. Some unfortunate women are genetically predisposed to UTIs and get them their entire life.
Risk factors for yeast infections include:
- Birth control pills
- Antibiotic use
Have you ever wondered why yeast infections are common after having a UTI? The vulva and vaginal opening have a healthy balance of bacteria and yeast at all times (again you’re not dirty, it’s the way nature intended things). Antibiotics kill “good bacteria” in addition to the little buggers who are lighting fires in your bladder. When the good bacteria are gone, yeast grow out of control and cause infections.
UTI vs. Yeast Infection: Treatment
The good news is that UTIs and yeast infections are easily treated.
Since urinary tract infections are most often caused by bacteria, you’ll need a course of antibiotics. For bladder infections, a 3 day course of most antibiotics will cure your symptoms (nitrofurantoin or Macrobid requires a 7 day course). Longer courses of antibiotics don’t work any better and have been shown to cause more side effects (like yeast infections!).
You should start seeing UTI relief within 24 hours if you’ve been placed on the correct antibiotic. If you’re not feeling better by 48-72 hours then it’s time to get re-evaluated. You may have a bacteria that is resistant to the initial course of antibiotics. It’s possible that you don’t have a UTI as well. This is when a board-certified urologist can help.
In some cases women may decide to forgo antibiotics for UTIs. Hydration with water and over-the-counter supplements (cranberry extract, D-mannose) may help. Just please stop drinking cranberry juice. It doesn’t work. More on this topic shortly.
Yeast infection treatment can start with a quick run to the pharmacy. A number of over-the-counter creams and vaginal suppositories are available for purchase without a prescription. If these don’t do the trick, then a prescription oral medication (fluconazole) may be necessary.
Make sure that regardless of whether you have a UTI or yeast infection that you complete the entire course of treatment.
UTI vs. Yeast Infection: Prevention
Prevention is the best medicine. Rather than suffer with UTIs or yeast infections, why not stop them before they start?
The best defense against UTIs is drinking water. The more water you drink, the more often you flush out bacteria. But what about cranberry juice?
CRANBERRY JUICE DOES NOT WORK! Too many “online experts” continue to recommend this “old wive’s tale” of a home remedy. The scientific proof is lacking. The last thing your bladder needs is sugar and acid from a tart juice.
On the other hand, high quality cranberry supplements combined with D-mannose may have some promise. Although there’s not overwhelming data, cranberry pills make more sense because they:
- Contain higher concentrations of polyphenols, the active compounds that fight bacteria.
- Don’t have the sugar or acid of cranberry juice.
- Are often combined with D-mannose which prevents bacteria from “sticking” to the bladder.
Another great way to prevent UTIs is to have a soft, daily bowel movement. Constipation places poop in close proximity to the bladder inside the pelvis. Bacteria can translocate across the bowel and into the bladder. Hard stools also press on the bladder nerves making normal urinary function more difficult.
Other helpful tips for preventing UTIs include:
- Urinating immediately after sexual activity
- Avoiding prolonged holding of urine in your bladder
- Addressing hormone imbalances due to birth control pills, menopause
- Visiting with a board-certified urologist
Preventing yeast infections requires keeping your lady business free of moisture. Sitting around in your sweaty Lululemon outfit all day is probably not a great idea. Give your lady business some room to breath and you may decrease the chances of a yeast infection.
Yeast also love sugar (don’t we all). That is why recurrent yeast infections should raise the suspicion of underlying diabetes.
Lastly, protect the good bacteria of your private area. Douching and unnecessary antibiotics allow yeast to grow uncontrolled. More is not always better.
UTI vs. Yeast Infection: Who Should I See?
For a detailed answer to who you should see for a UTI, check out our previous blog post titled “Which Doctor to See for UTI?”.
If you’re pretty sure you have a yeast infection, then running to your local pharmacy can get you on the right path. Most over-the-counter remedies are effective. When those don’t work you have a few options:
- Urgent care (exposure to COVID? No thanks!)
- Call primary care or GYN doctor (leave a message only to never get a phone call back.)
- Visit today with a board-certified urologist on VirtuCare (sounds easy enough!)
UTI vs. Yeast Infection: Closing Thoughts
Now that you are better educated on the differences between a UTI vs. yeast infection, we hope you can more quickly get that lady business fire under control.
These infections are miserable! You shouldn’t have to suffer. Whether you’re actively fighting a fire or preventing the next one, a telemedicine visit with a VirtuCare specialist can get you the relief you deserve.
You shouldn’t have to wait in an urgent care or deal with an annoyed doctor on the phone. We provide expert, compassionate care from the comfort of your home.
Because your girlfriends are waiting, and I hear this place makes killer mimosas. You deserve one today. Maybe even two.