Itching, burning, overall discomfort… yeast infections and urinary tract infections (UTIs) — both totally normal and common afflictions, mind you — are in many ways strikingly similar. Which, as many of you might know, can make it extremely difficult to know which one you might have, should you be feeling any abnormal discomfort down below.
But while they might feel the same in many ways, they’re quite different. Keep reading to find out what makes them unique, what causes them in the first place, and most importantly, where and how to seek treatment.
What’s the Difference?
There are a few main differences between the two ailments, the first being microbial. UTIs are a bacterial issue, wrought by a foreign bacteria — in other words, an external bacteria making its way somewhere that it doesn’t belong — causing an imbalancing bacterial overgrowth. Yeast infections, caused by the overgrowth of a pesky yeast called Candida albicans, are fungal.
Location differs, too. As the name might give away, an infection of the urinary tract is, well, in the urinary tract, occuring in the bladder. Yeast infections, meanwhile, can actually form anywhere on your skin, however are most common in the vagina and on the vulva. And actually, pinpointing location is one of the simplest ways to determine which ailment you might have — if it burns or hurts while you pee, that probably means you have a UTI. But if it mostly hurts or feels uncomfortable while you or someone else is touching your vaginal area, you probably have a yeast infection.
What Causes Them?
On that note, another useful way to tell which is which? Tracing back your steps.
If you’ve been having more sex than usual, have introduced a new partner(s), or have forgotten to pee after sex, it’s likely that you have a UTI. Yeast infections, on the other hand, can be caused by anything from stress to excess sugar to using douches to staying in sweaty gym clothes for too long — all of which can impact vaginal microbiota and pH levels.
Where Do the Symptoms Diverge?
Again, while the symptoms — especially early on — can feel quite similar, they do differ.
UTIs: Needing to pee too often, burning sensation when urinating, only releasing small amounts of urine when peeing, cloudy, red, or pink-colored pee, blood in the urine, strong-smelling urine, and/or pelvic pain, particularly around the pubic bone.
Yeast Infections: Itching and irritation in the vaginal region, burning during sex or while peeing, a red or swollen vulva, thick, odorless, and/or even cottage cheese-like discharge, and/or watery discharge.
What About Treatment?
Treatment options, of course, are always personal — and as always, absolutely consult a healthcare professional!
That being said, drinking a lot of water, taking a probiotic, and limiting stress tend to work wonders for both. UTIs are most often treated with a round of antibiotics as well, while there are some topical preventative aids that help keep yeast infections at bay our personal favorite is the LadySuite Probiotic Refresher Cleanser.
Oh, and sadly, avoiding sex — for the time being, at least — can hurry the healing process along.
At the end of the day, UTIs and yeast infections are both totally normal. They happen all the time, and there are usually ways to intervene in their earlier stages — especially if you have the tools and knowledge to be able to tell what they are, when they happen.
This article is by Maggie Harrison-- a rural Pennsylvania-raised, currently New Orleans-based writer and creative whose work covers everything from wellness to social media to grief and loss. Head to her website to learn more about her work, or follow along on Instagram or Twitter.