You asked, we answered: What’s the difference between a UTI and a yeast infection?


What’s the difference between a UTI and a yeast infection?

Answered by University Health Center provider Lindsay O’Meara, PA-C:

Symptoms of a UTI and yeast infection are similar, but there are some subtle differences. Determining the exact cause of your symptoms and getting appropriate treatment are critical to prevent the condition from getting worse.

What is a UTI?

urinary tract infection is an infection of the urinary system that can include the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. It is caused when bacteria enter the urinary tract, often from intercourse or bacteria from the rectum. Unmanaged diabetes can also lead to UTIs.

Common UTI symptoms include:

  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Urge to urinate more frequently or urgently
  • Cloudy and strong-smelling urine
  • Pelvic pain 
  • Red, pink or cola-colored urine 
UTI treatment and prevention

Treatment to clear a UTI requires antibiotics prescribed by your health care provider. 

To help reduce your risk for a UTI, take these steps:

  • Drink cranberry juice. Although studies have not been conclusive that cranberry juice can prevent UTIs, it can't hurt to add this to your diet if you are prone to UTIs
  • Drink lots of water. Drinking lots of water will help flush out bacteria from your urinary tract to prevent infections from setting in
  • Urinate after intercourse to help flush out bacteria that may have entered the urinary tract during intercourse
  • Avoid douching, scented soaps and deodorant sprays. These can interfere with the good bacteria that help keep bad bacteria from growing
  • Evaluate your birth control method. Birth control such as diaphragms and unlubricated or spermicide-treated condoms can facilitate bacterial growth
What is a yeast infection?

A yeast infection is a fungal infection of the vagina and vulva that is often caused  by a disruption of the normal balance of healthy bacteria in that area. It can be triggered by unmanaged diabetes, overuse of feminine products like  douches, bubble baths, overwashing the vaginal area, or wearing tight-fitting, nonbreathable clothing. Some people are also more prone to yeast infections during their period.

Common yeast infection symptoms include:

  • Burning and itching in the vagina and vulva
  • Burning sensation while urinating or during intercourse
  • Thick, white discharge that looks similar to cottage cheese
  • Watery vaginal discharge
Yeast infection treatment and prevention

Over-the-counter anti-fungal medications for three to seven days will usually clear a yeast infection. These medications need to be inserted into the vaginal canal. A single-dose oral medication may also be prescribed. 

If your yeast infection doesn't clear up with treatment, there's a chance you could have a sexually transmitted infection or bacterial infection that requires other treatment. This will require a visit with a medical professional who will complete an examination of the vagina and test the discharge.

To prevent yeast infections, avoid:

  • Tight-fitting clothing
  • Douching and use of scented feminine products
  • Washing the vagina with soap. Use water only
  • Time in hot tubs and very hot baths
  • Using antibiotics when possible
  • Wearing wet clothes, swimsuits, and workout attire too long
Can I treat my UTI or yeast infection myself?

There are over-the-counter creams you can use to help relieve itching and burning, but they will not make the infection go away. Learn about more home remedies for UTIs. 

Treatment for yeast infections typically involves over-the-counter medications such as a vaginal insert or a pill. However, medical advice from a health care provider is recommended to ensure you are using the appropriate treatment.

If you are worried you have a UTI or yeast infection, call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment with a University Health Center doctor.