Do you have a UTI or STD? It can be tough to tell the difference. A UTI can show similar symptoms to that of sexually transmitted diseases and vice versa. After reading this article, you will have a better understanding of the differences between a UTI and STD and what to do about each.

If you suspect you have either, it is smart to go to your medical provider right away and be tested.

UTI - What Is It?

A UTI is a urinary tract infection. The infection is caused by bacteria that is in one of four parts of your urinary tract:

  • Urethra
  • Bladder
  • Ureter
  • Kidneys

Depending on the area affected, a UTI can be called a bladder infection - cystitis - or a urethra infection - urethritis. (1)

Most UTIs affect the bladder. These are usually mild infections. But if they are not treated early, the infection can get more serious as it spreads to other parts of the urinary tract. One of the more serious infections is pyelonephritis, which happens if the UTI gets to the kidneys. This is a very serious infection and can cause permanent damage.

STD - What Is It?

A sexually transmitted disease or STD is usually passed via sexual intercourse and other types of non-sexual contact. STD symptoms can be similar in some ways to many UTIs. That is why the two are often confused.

What Is the Difference Between the Two?

Unlike a sexually transmitted disease, a UTI cannot be transmitted via sexual or non-sexual contact. But there are some sexual contexts that can increase your risk of getting a UTI; not urinating after having sex is a good example.

As mentioned above, STDs and UTIs can often have symptoms similar to each other. Symptoms that can present themselves with both STDs and UTIs are:

  • Difficulty urinating
  • Urinating frequently
  • Urine that has dark or cloudy appearance
  • Urine that has an unusual odor

Some of the common symptoms of an STD that are not that of UTIs are:

  • Pain during intercourse
  • Spotting or bleeding during the menstrual cycle
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Upset stomach
  • Blisters, sores or rashes in the genitals

The American Society for Microbiology reports that UTIs and STDs are often not diagnosed correctly. This is especially common in the emergency room. In a recent study, clinical researchers determined 65% of patients with an STD were improperly diagnosed with a UTI. The reason for this in part is that a UTI and STD can show similar results in a urinalysis, which can cause the misdiagnosis.

Causes of a UTI

The majority of UTIs are due to E. coli bacteria. E. coli is usually a harmless bacteria when it is in your intestines, colon and anus. But if it gets into the urinary tract, a UTI can result. Most urinary tract infections start when E. coli gets into the opening of the urethra, which is the portion of the urinary tract that takes urine outside the body. Then, the bacteria works its way higher in the urinary tract. (2)

Note that wiping from back to front after you have a bowel movement can bring E. coli from the anus to the opening of the vagina. At that point, it can easily enter the urethra. A UTI also can be caused by growth of bacteria in the bladder. This may result from waiting too long to urinate or not moving for a long time, such as an elderly person being bedridden. The use of a diaphragm or spermicide also can spread harmful bacteria which can boost the chance of getting a UTI.

Can An STD Lead to a UTI?

It is possible but rare. These infections happen on and around the genitalia and share some symptoms, these two infections can be linked incorrectly. But remember, they are different types of infection. And just because you have one infection does not mean you will get the other.

Remember, most urinary tract infections are caused by E. coli bacteria, But no all UTIs are caused by this bacteria. Other bacteria and fungi can cause a urinary tract infection. But these cases are rarer. A viral infection in the urinary tract is also unusual. In some cases, the bacteria that can lead to an STD can lead to a UTI. Chlamydia may cause an infection in your urinary tract. Also, UTI symptoms that are caused by chlamydia can be different from UTIs. (3)

Do You Have a UTI or STD?

You may be able to tell the difference by the symptoms, but the only certain way to tell is to have a test at a doctor’s office. UTIs usually have symptoms but occasionally they will not. On the other hand, STDs often have no symptoms at first. If you have any type of unusual symptom involving your genitalia, you should go to a doctor right away and be tested.

Because STDs often have no symptoms early on, they can be present in the body for years and eventually lead to serious health problems: chronic pain, infertility and even cancer. STDs can spread to your sexual partner or spouse and possible hurt the fetus if you become pregnant. It is a good idea for these reasons to be tested for STDs every one or two years, even if you have no symptoms.

Treatment Options

No matter if you have an STD or UTI, neither will go away of its own accord. In some situations, depending on the type of STD, you may not be able to get treatment. But all UTIs and most STDs have treatment options available. After you have a test, your doctor will be able to give you the best options for treatment to get you better.

References

(1) How to Tell If You Have a UTI or STD. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.prioritystdtesting.com/blog/how-to-tell-if-you-have-a-uti-or-an-std/

(2) UTI vs STD Difference. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.stdcheck.com/blog/uti-vs-std-difference/

(3) STI vs UTI - How to Tell the Difference Between Their Symptoms. (2016). Retrieved from https://cherryhillobgyn.com/posts/news/sti-vs-uti-how-to-tell-the-difference-between-their-symptoms/