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UTI or yeast infection?

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Urinary tract infections and yeast infections are quite common among women. Since their symptoms can mimic one another, it’s sometimes difficult to tell them apart.
But there’s a vast difference in the severity of the conditions, so women should learn to recognize the signs of each. Dr. Xaviera Carter, an OB-GYN with Tidelands Health Women’s Center, says patients frequently confuse the two conditions since symptoms are similar.

Differences

“A yeast infection is primarily an aggravation and rarely does it lead to more serious health concerns,” she says. On the other hand, if not treated with prescription antibiotics, a UTI can cause pyelonephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys that can lead to kidney damage or sepsis, a very serious blood infection.
“The best method to guide treatment for a UTI is a urine culture. We can specifically identify the bacteria that’s causing the infection and prescribe the right antibiotic,” she says. “Some people can be resistant to certain antibiotics, so it’s important to determine the one that will treat the infection.”

UTI causes

A urinary tract infection is caused by bacterial growth anywhere along the urinary tract, including the bladder, kidneys, urethra or ureters. It’s a common problem, resulting in more than 8 million visits to health care providers each year. Nearly half of all women will experience a UTI at some point in their lives.
Symptoms of a UTI can include:

  • Burning or pain with urination
  • Blood in the urine
  • Frequent urges to urinate
  • Foul-smelling and/or cloudy urine
  • Redness in the genital area
  • Low back pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever and chills.

If you think you have a UTI, Dr. Carter says it’s very important to be evaluated by a health care professional. A urinalysis will be conducted to determine if bacteria is growing in the urinary tract. If so, a course of oral antibiotics will be prescribed.

The cause of yeast infections

A yeast infection is caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. It naturally occurs in the body, but environmental conditions can cause an overgrowth. When too much Candida albicans is present in the vagina, symptoms like burning, itching, redness and white or yellowish discharge can occur. With a yeast infection, you won’t run a fever as you can with a UTI, Dr. Carter says.

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Dr. Carter says a yeast infection can usually be treated with topical or oral over-the-counter medications available at drug stores. However, if the infection doesn’t respond to the medication or you aren’t sure of the diagnosis, you should seek care from a medical professional.
Seeking medical treatment is especially important for post-menopausal women who suspect they have yeast infections.
“If itching, irritation redness in that age group does not resolve with over-the-counter or doctor’s treatment, it could require a biopsy to rule out cancer,” she says.

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