Some aspects of health tend to get overlooked, especially since certain types of infections are so common they are considered “normal”. However, just because urinary tract infections and yeast infections seem to occur commonly in women and even pop up in men doesn’t mean these shouldn’t be treated accordingly. Some women have grown to accept that they will just suffer with one or the other from time to time and don’t bother with treatment, which could be the reason for recurrence.
Getting a UTI
A urinary tract infection can settle in any part of the system, usually caused by bacteria that enters through the urethra. When it reached the bladder, it typically begins to proliferate there but could continue the path into the upper urinary tract, reproducing in the ureters or the kidneys, which becomes a much more complex and dangerous infection.
Anyone can get a UTI, but they are far more common in women than men. It’s estimated that about 40 percent of women will have a UTI in their lifetime, while estimates for men are between three and five percent. This is mostly because of the difference in anatomy. In women, the urethra is shorter, which means that any bacteria entering the body this way have a much shorter path to travel to wreak havoc. Also, because of the urethral opening’s position, so close to both the vagina and the anus, it is extremely easy for bacteria or fungus to transfer to the urethra, which will lead to infection. In fact, most UTIs are caused by E. coli, the main bacteria found in fecal matter.
The symptoms of a UTI are pretty easy to recognize and should signal it’s time to make a trip to the doctor, both to get antibiotics for treatment and to assure that it’s not something more serious that mimics the same symptoms. Those signs include:
- Sudden, frequent, and urgent need to pee
- Burning, pain, or stinging when peeing
- Cloudy, smelly, or discolored and bloody urine
- Feeling like it’s impossible to empty the bladder
- Pain, ache, or pressure in the abdomen, flanks, or lower back
- Low grade fever
Getting a yeast infection
A yeast infection is caused by fungus, usually candida albicans, which is found in the natural balance of yeast and bacteria in the vagina. Typically, a yeast infection forms when that balance is interrupted, and the yeast overgrows.
Symptoms of a yeast infection are recognizable, just like those of a UTI, and include:
- Vaginal and vulva irritation and itching
- Burning sensations in the vagina or nearby areas, especially during intercourse or urination
- Redness and swelling in the vulva
- Vaginal pain, soreness, or aching
- Rash in the vaginal region
- A white, discharge of the vagina that appears similar to the consistency of cottage cheese
- Watery vaginal discharge
As with UTIs, women are prone to yeast infections, whereas men typically never experience such problems (unless they, on a rare occasion, develop one after unprotected sex). In fact, three out of four women will experience a yeast infection at some point in their lives. Risk factors that increase chances of having one include pregnancy, uncontrolled diabetes, and a compromised immune system.
Taking oral contraceptives or any sort of hormone therapy that increases the estrogen in the system can also cause an overgrowth of yeast that leads to infection. Another common catalyst is taking antibiotics. Because these can kill a broad spectrum of bacteria, they tend to destroy some of the good bacteria in the vagina, allowing the yeast to grow rampantly.
Treating a yeast infection is just as simple as treating a UTI. A round of medication – usually vaginal but possibly oral – will stop the infection. Antibiotics won’t work and could make the situation worse; however, if you have a UTI at the same time, you’ll require antibiotics and likely a stronger or longer treatment for the yeast infection to counterbalance the effect of the antibiotics on the yeast.
Contracting both a UTI and yeast infection
Some things that can lead to enhanced risk of both a yeast infection and a UTI are:
- Wearing tight fitting clothes in the vaginal region
- Wearing panties without a cotton liner
- Douching, which changes the balance of bacteria in the body
- Using scented vaginal sprays, bubble baths, pads, or tampons
- Spending time in hot tubs or taking very hot baths
- Remaining in wet clothes, such as after a workout or swimming, for long periods of time
- Taking antibiotics unnecessarily, such as for a viral infection
- Too much sugar in the diet, since high blood sugar levels promote both irritation in the urinary tract and growth of fungus and bacteria
In order to prevent yeast infections and UTIs, the best things to do are to maintain a healthy diet, stay hydrated, and use proper hygiene.
Both UTIs and yeast infections are extremely uncomfortable, and if left untreated, can become complicated and lead to further health issues. Seeing a doctor for diagnosis and treatment early is key to clearing up the issues and avoiding recurrence. If you follow all of these preventative measures and still have recurring issues with either type of infection, there may be another underlying cause, and it’s important to consult with a physician to determine what that is and treat it, since it could be more serious. However, typically these infections are easily cleared and avoided.