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UTIs and Yeast Infections: How to Know the Difference

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uti yeast infection difference Via Unsplash

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) and yeast infections are two of the most common problems to befall a woman’s genital area. If you are a healthy young woman, chances are you will experience one (if not both) of these infections in your lifetime.

The symptoms of these conditions can be very scary (itching, burning, pain), which is why it’s important to learn about them BEFORE they happen to you. That way, you can differentiate between what requires a visit to the doctor and what can be treated at home with over-the-counter (OTC) meds. It can also help you sidestep the panicked two hours during which you wonder if you have a sexually transmitted disease.

It’s pretty hard to confuse the symptoms of a UTI. The first, and most noticeable, sign will be a frequent urge to urinate. But then when you go to the bathroom, surprise! Nothing comes out. This feeling is extremely uncomfortable, and similar to what I imagine men must experience when they have an erection for too long.

A UTI begins in the urethra and then works its way up your urinary tract. This means that the next symptom you have will be a dull pain in the lower right portion of your back. This is where the urinary tract runs up to meet your kidneys. At this point, it is very important to get to a doctor quickly, as you may develop a kidney infection if left untreated. You will be prescribed antibiotics to take for about 10 days or so. Keep in mind that antibiotics do lower the efficacy of hormonal contraceptives, so you may want to use a back-up method of birth control until your next period.

Yeast infections are also common in women but are quite a different matter. They are characterized by an itchy, painful-to-the-touch feeling around your vagina and labia. As the condition worsens, you will start to produce thick, foul-smelling vaginal discharge. The consistency of this substance is often compared to cottage cheese.

Luckily, yeast infections are very easy to treat. You simply need to head to your nearest drug store and pick up a box of Monistat or its generic equivalent. These kits come complete with an ovule of treatment solution that is placed in the vagina before bed, as well as creams and wipes to sooth the itching. Your condition should improve within two to three days.

NOTE: This article is not intended to replace a doctor’s opinion or diagnosis. Please see your primary care physician if you are unsure of what treatment plan to follow, or if OTC meds do not help your condition improve within a day or two.


Shaina Gaul is a feminist and freelance writer living in Iowa. View more of her writing at http://www.couchSpud.net.

Add a Comment15 Comments


Shaina, Your article provides some really good decriptions of the difference between UTIs an Yeast.
But your statement "Luckily, yeast infections are very easy to treat. You simply need to head to your nearest drug store and pick up a box of Monistat or its generic equivalent." Is what I responded to. Women need to head to their GYN dr. and get a culture, not start to self treat before they know what they are treating.

October 27, 2009 - 4:06am
EmpowHER Guest

This article was about how to distinguish UTIs from yeast infections. It was NOT about how to determine whether you have a yeast infection or some other condition. Please read my article all the way through to see the message at the bottom, where I state that this is not intended to replace the opinion or diagnosis of a physician.

October 26, 2009 - 7:32pm
EmpowHER Guest

I agree with Michelle. It is NOT very easy to distinguish between yeast infection and the dozens of other possibilities. In fact, about 20%-30% of patients with appendicitis come in with UTI symptoms. You should really go see your doctor if you are concerned.

October 26, 2009 - 7:23pm
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Hi Michelle - Thanks for your comments and providing the source link for your information. I think the movement of yeast infection treatment products from the pharmacy to retail store shelves has in many ways created false impressions and misunderstandings about what the products can and can't treat. Regards, Pat

October 23, 2009 - 6:18pm

While you do point out some important information for women to have in mind, I caution any women to not self treat themselves for a yeast infection without having a culture send off by their health care professional first. Women frequently misdiagnose yeast infections that are actually not yeast infections. In fact, a study in 2002 showed that only 1/3 (33.7%) of the women who self diagnosed themselves with yeast actually had yeast. The rest had BV, trich, mixed vaginitis or no infection at all. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11864668

If you have had several yeast infections in the past and are familiar with how your own body responds to a yeast infection, you are more likely to have a more accurately diagnosis. (though the study doesn't confirm this) Not all women with yeast infections have the classic yeasty cottage cheese discharge which makes self diagnosis even harder. Over treatment with drugstore yeast medications has contributed to the increased occurrence of more resistent yeast infections making it even more difficult for women to get rid of them.

October 23, 2009 - 4:00am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.