Is It a UTI or Yeast Infection? Learn How to Tell the Difference

Two common infections—a yeast infection and urinary tract infection (UTI)—often confuse people when it comes to symptoms and causes. But telling them apart can actually be easy once you have the right information.

To start, a yeast infection is a fungal infection and a UTI is a bacterial infection. So, while a course of antibiotics will likely be needed to get rid of a UTI, treating a yeast infection in most cases does not require a trip to the doctor.

Knowing this, it’s now important to understand the differences in causes and symptoms. You don’t want to wait to treat either of these infections, so let’s give you the information you need to make smart health decisions for yourself. 

Causes of a UTI vs Yeast Infection

Urinary tract infections

UTIs are caused by bacteria entering or building up in the urinary tract. This infection can happen anywhere in the urinary tract, including in the urethra (tube through which urine travels out of the body), the bladder, ureter (tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder), or the kidneys.

UTIs are more likely to occur in women or people with female organs since the urethra is shorter than in people with male organs. Because the bacteria doesn’t have far to travel, it can pass more easily to other parts of the urinary tract.

Actions that can increase your risk for UTIs include:

  • Wiping from back to front when using the toilet
  • Using diaphragms, spermicides, or having unprotected sex
  • Not urinating before and after having sex
  • Holding in your pee for long periods or not fully emptying your bladder when you pee
  • Having a catheter in for an extended time

Those at a higher risk for UTIs include people who:

  • Are pregnant or overweight
  • Are post-menopausal or of older age
  • Have kidney or bladder stones
  • Have diabetes or other chronic conditions that weaken the immune system

Due to changes in our bodies as we age, including the weakening of muscles that send waste through and out of the body, UTIs are the most common infection in adults over age 65. They are especially common for seniors living in nursing homes.

Yeast infections

Your vagina normally has a yeast called Candida within it that stays in balance when you have a healthy immune system and no other triggers that would cause an overgrowth of that yeast.

While you can get a yeast infection from having sex, that’s more common with UTIs. Because yeast infections occur due to a buildup of the Candida fungus, the causes relate to trapped moisture, medication side-effects, and changes to the body due to the effects of fluctuating hormones or blood sugar.

Causes of yeast infections include:

  • Wearing tight underwear or pants or non-breathable fabrics
  • Not changing out of pants or underwear that are wet or sweaty
  • Having high blood sugar or blood sugar levels that are not controlled
  • Hormonal changes, such as during puberty, pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause
  • Taking certain medications such as steroids, birth control pills, or even antibiotics
  • Weakening of the immune system due to illness, cancer treatments, stress or pregnancy

(Learn more about Common Triggers and Causes of Yeast Infections and How to Avoid Them.)

How to Tell the Difference Between a UTI or a Yeast Infection
Do you have a yeast infection?

Do you have a yeast infection?

Answer a few questions and find out what your symptoms mean.

Symptoms of UTI vs Yeast Infection

If the only symptom you notice is pain in the pubic region, it may difficult to determine what is causing it. But other than pain, the symptoms of UTIs and yeast infections are different.

UTI symptoms may include one or more of the following:

  • A burning sensation when you pee
  • Frequent urge or need to urinate
  • Discolored or cloudy urine
  • Blood in the urine (it may appear red or pink in the toilet)
  • Feeling like your bladder is not completely empty even after you pee
  • Pain around the pubic bone (near where urine exits) or in the lower abdomen
  • A strong odor to your urine

If you have a fever, chills, nausea, or vomiting, you should call your doctor right away. If you do have a UTI, you will likely need antibiotics to get rid of it.

Symptoms of a yeast infection are different. These include:

  • Thick, white, lumpy discharge with no odor that looks a little like cottage cheese
  • Itching, burning, redness or swelling in and around your vagina
  • Vaginal pain while having sex or urinating
  • A rash around your vaginal area

It’s important to note that you may not notice symptoms of a yeast infection or have all of the symptoms listed above. Mild yeast infections may even go away on their own.

You should also know that yeast infections do share some symptoms with other vaginal infections and sexually transmitted infections. Try our Symptom Checker to help figure out if you have a yeast infection. If you are not sure, talk to your doctor.

Treating a UTI vs a Yeast Infection

Both UTIs and yeast infections can be treated relatively easily and quickly if not severe. Both can also come back after treatment if the infection was severe or if treatment was not followed correctly.

Most UTIs are treated with a course of antibiotics and symptoms reduce or go away within a few days of starting treatment. Keep taking the antibiotics, though, for as many days as your doctor directed. If you stop early, the UTI can come back and you could develop resistance to the antibiotics, meaning they may not work for you in the future.

Over-the-counter yeast infection treatments (found in your local big box stores and pharmacies) typically involve ointments, creams, vaginal suppositories, or vaginal inserts. While you have choices as to the length of dosing that’s appropriate (between 1 and 7 doses), it typically can take up to 7 days for your infection to fully go away. However, you usually feel relief from symptoms within the first couple days.

If you have had a yeast infection before and are confident you have one again, you can use MONISTAT® 1-Day, 3-Day, or 7-Day treatments. If you’re not sure which yeast infection treatment will work best for you, try our Product Selector tool.

If you have not had a yeast infection previously, are pregnant, or have diabetes or an illness that weakens your immune system, talk to your doctor before starting any treatments. If you have had four or more yeast infections within a year, you might have what’s called a recurrent yeast infection. Your doctor will want to know about this, so they can give you the right treatment for your health needs.