Itching, unusual discharge, pelvic pain, and a frequent urge to pee - is it a yeast infection or a urinary tract infection? Some symptoms of both are similar, while others are unique to each condition, and the treatment options are different too. So how do you know if you have a yeast infection or a UTI?
Read on to learn the difference in symptoms, how each condition is caused, how long you can expect them to last, and the treatment options available for each.
A yeast infection, also known as vaginal candidiasis, is a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of a fungus in the vagina called candida. This fungus habitually resides on the skin, in the throat, mouth, and vagina. When something upsets the vaginal pH levels, however, candida is allowed to thrive in an unhealthy way.
Research and studies into yeast infections have shown that they are one of the most common vaginal infections with as many as 75% of women experiencing at least one in their lifetime and 45% suffering two or more.
What Causes Yeast Infections?
The vagina usually maintains a natural pH level measuring between 3.8 and 4.5 on a pH scale, but when the pH level rises or falls due to the influence of an outside factor, candida flourishes within the unbalanced microbiome and results in a yeast infection.
Outside factors that can alter the pH balance within the vagina include, wearing clothing that is too tight, increased levels of moisture around the genitals, a weakened immune system, poor genital hygiene, stress, the use of birth control pills, and taking antibiotics to treat another condition.
Symptoms of A Vaginal Yeast Infection
The symptoms associated with a vaginal yeast infection can present as mild or severe.
The milder symptoms include:
- Vulvar itching
- A burning sensation when peeing or during sex
- A lumpy vaginal discharge resembling cottage cheese can also occur, but not always
More severe symptoms, typically manifesting if a vaginal yeast infection is left untreated, include:
- Swelling and redness of the vulva
- Vaginal pain
- Intense vulvar itching to the point that skin sores become infected
- Green vaginal discharge
How To Treat A Yeast Infection
Yeast infections are usually treated with over-the-counter antifungal medications in the form of creams ointments, tablets, or vaginal suppositories.
In addition to antifungal medication, probiotic supplements, like our Flora Bloom Probiotics with added cranberry and D mannose are highly recommended to restore a healthy vaginal pH balance.
Boric Acid Vaginal Suppositories have also been proven to rebalance the vaginal microflora and prevent yeast infections from recurring.
For those prone to yeast infections, female health experts advise taking a daily probiotic to keep future infections at bay.
Urinary Tract Infections
A urinary tract infection (UTI), is a bacterial infection that can affect any part of the urinary system including the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys. Although men also suffer from UTIs, they are more common in women due to the proximity of the urethra to the anus, where harmful bacteria can linger from bowel movements. Indeed, according to studies, almost 60% of women suffer from at least one UTI in their lifetime.
What Causes UTIs?
In 95% of reported UTI cases, bacteria is the root cause. While some fungi and viruses are also known to be the cause in very rare cases, it is the tiny bacterial microbes that live around the anus that are the main culprits.
Believed to enter the urethra due to poor hygiene, wiping back to front after using the toilet, using spermicidal contraceptives, or during penetrative sex, the presence of this bacteria within the urethra throws the natural vaginal pH off balance and results in infection.
Symptoms of a UTI
While UTIs are known to affect any part of the urinary system, the most common parts affected are the urethra or bladder, and in severe cases, the kidneys. The symptoms of each are listed below.
Symptoms of UTI affecting the urethra include:
- A frequent urge to urinate
- A burning sensation during urination
Symptoms of UTI affecting the bladder include:
- Frequent urge to urinate
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Pain or pressure in the pelvis & or lower abdomen
- Lower back pain
- Signs of blood in the urine i.e. pink colored urine
Symptoms of UTI affecting the kidneys include:
- Frequent urge to pee
- Pain when urinating
- Fever & chills
- Pain in the lower back and sides
- Groin pain
- Blood or green discharge in urine
- Cloudy & pungent urine
How to Treat a Urinary Tract Infection
UTIs normally require antibiotics to clear the infection. However, to soothe the symptoms faster and prevent UTIs from recurring, two natural supplements are also effective.
Probiotics will help to restore a healthy vaginal microbiome and Dried Aloe Vera Supplements with D-Mannose & Calcium are known to fight the bacteria causing the infection as well as ease inflammation and pain.
What Are The Differences Between A Yeast Infection & UTI
Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of a fungus in the vagina, whereas UTIs are caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the urinary tract.
Symptoms that yeast infections and UTIs have in common include vaginal itching, and pain while peeing or during sex. However, a frequent urge to urinate and pain in the lower back and sides are more typically associated with a UTI, and a lumpy cottage cheese-like vaginal discharge is a common symptom of yeast infections.
Yeast infections are typically treated with over-the-counter antifungal medication while UTIs usually require an antibiotic to clear the infection. While probiotics are helpful to restore unbalanced pH levels associated with both infections, Boric Acid Supplements are recommended to prevent recurring yeast infections, and Aloe Vera Supplements with added D mannose & calcium are recommended to prevent UTIs from recurring.
Infection Time Frame
While the duration of yeast infections and UTIs will vary depending on the severity of the infection, a yeast infection will usually clear up within a few days of beginning treatment, and a UTI typically clears within one or two days of starting a course of antibiotics.
That said, when a mild UTI is left untreated and reaches the kidneys it can take as long as a few weeks to feel relief with treatment, and a yeast infection left untreated can take anywhere from a few days to a few months to treat.
Additional Tips to Prevent Yeast Infections & UTIs
In addition to probiotics and the above-mentioned natural supplements that help prevent yeast infections and UTIs from occurring or recurring, the following tips and lifestyle changes are also effective.
- Drink at least 1.5 liters of water per day to stay hydrated
- Never hold your urge to pee
- Wipe from front to back after using the toilet
- Pee before sex to empty the bladder
- Pee after sex to clear the urethra of any bacteria
- Avoid douching or cleaning the vagina with scented hygiene products – washing daily with warm water and unscented soap is healthier and helps maintain balanced vaginal pH levels
- Change out of damp gym clothing or wet swimsuits as soon as you can
- Avoid tight-fitting pants or jeans
- Change from synthetic underwear to a more breathable cotton type
Yeast infections and urinary tract infections are both conditions that affect the female genitals, but the causes, symptoms, treatment options, and how long the infections last differ. If you suspect you have a yeast infection or a UTI, it’s always better to visit your doctor to confirm diagnosis as treatment options are different for both.
If you are prone to recurring yeast infections or UTIs, make some lifestyle changes to include the above-mentioned tips and speak with your doctor about including probiotics in your daily routine, as well as boric acid supplements for yeast infections, or aloe vera supplements to prevent UTIs.
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – Vaginal Candidiasis - https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/genital/
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – Urinary Tract Infection - https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/uti.html
American Kidney Fund – Kidney Infection https://www.kidneyfund.org/all-about-kidneys/other-kidney-problems/kidney-infection
Cleveland Clinic – Are Probiotics Good For Vaginal Health - https://health.clevelandclinic.org/probiotics-for-vaginal-health/
National Library of Medicine - Incident and persistent vulvovaginal candidiasis among human immunodeficiency virus-infected women: Risk factors and severity - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12636961/
National Center for Biotechnology Information – Clinician’s use of Intravaginal Boric Acid Maintenance Therapy for Recurrent Vulvovaginal Candidiasis and Bacterial Vaginosis - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6878170/
National Center for Biotechnology Information – In Vitro Antimicrobial Activity of Aloe Vera Gel on Selected Urinary Pathogens - http://thebiomedicapk.com/articles/527.pdf
National Center for Biotechnology Information - Anti-inflammatory effects of aloe vera gel in human colorectal mucosa in vitro - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14987320/
European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences - A promising support for acute urinary tract infections in women. A pilot study - https://europeanreview.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2920-2925-D-mannose-a-promising-support-for-acute-urinary-tract-infections-in-women.-A-pilot-study.pdf