UTI or STI: How Can You Know Which One You’re Suffering With

UTI or STI: How Can You Know Which One You’re Suffering With

Most people got a dose of STI and UTIs in their health class in high school but were not given the real gravity of the situation – meaning how prevalent they are and how they really feel.

Information from the National Kidney Foundation shows that one in five women will experience a UTI (urinary tract infection) at least once in their life. And, the number of people being diagnosed with an STI (sexually transmitted infection) like chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis) is increasing.

Due to how common these infections are and how close the urinary tract and bladder are to the reproductive organs, trying to determine if you’re suffering from a UTI or STI can be tricky.

OB/GYN Dr. Shelia Loanzon said STIs have a similar feeling as a UTI, as they both cause burning and pain during urination as well as pelvic pain. Still, some minor differences let you know if you have an STI or UTI.

What Are The Symptoms Of UTIs and STIs?

According to clinical professor Dr. Lauren F. Streicher, while it’s possible to have an STI and no symptoms, the painful, burning sensations associated with UTI are not out of character. She said herpes is the most common STI to show UTI symptoms. Nearly 60 percent of people in their first herpes outbreak experience painful, burning urination as well as a low-grade fever, blisters and swollen lymph nodes.

Sores are usually the dead giveaway that you have an STI infection and not a UTI one. However, diagnosing gonorrhea and chlamydia tend to be a bit more difficult to do.

Dr. Zeina Saliba with Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology said an STI like chlamydia and gonorrhea could infect the urogenital tract and, because of that, they share UTI symptoms. For instance, gonorrhea that has infected the urethra can cause the sufferer to experience painful and constant urination.

An OB/GYN doctor can determine if you are suffering from a UTI or STI in the urinary tract by doing tests such as a urine culture or urinalysis. They may also do a complete STI screening to determine what the actual health problem is. By knowing what your symptoms are related to, you can get the proper medical treatment.

Dr. Loanzon said STIs such as gonorrhea, trichomoniasis and chlamydia will have a vaginal discharge, which is not a UTI symptom. She said vaginal discharge is healthy, but the color and smell of it, along with other symptoms, could be a sign of either vaginosis or STI.

Dr. Loanzon also said it’s important to identify pelvic pain that hits when urinating with a UTI compared to urine that comes into contact with the vaginal skin wall. If a person has both burning and pain, they may be unable to determine why, which is why it’s important to see a doctor.

Seeking Professional Treatment

Dr. Streicher said it’s possible for the two infections to occur at the same time, which is why it’s important to see a doctor right away to determine what the cause is and get proper treatment.

Many people are under the misconception that drinking cranberry juice or staying hydrated will treat their UTI symptoms and clear up the infection. However, infections need antibiotics. Untreated UTIs can lead to a serious kidney infection. While untreated STIs can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, chronic pain and infertility.

While many women are in tune with their bodies, it’s still easy to confuse the STI and UTI symptoms. This is why seeing your doctor is a necessity – only then can you find out for sure which issue is causing your health problem.

Mark Riegel, MD

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