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While UTIs and thrush are both infections, the cause it quite different.
UTIs, or Urinary Tract Infections, refer to an infection in any part of the tract. Most commonly, it’s in the urethra, the tube that carries urine from your bladder to outside the body. The urethra is typically the first site of infection as it’s the closest to the external environment. Left untreated, the infection can move up the tract to the bladder, the ureters (the tubes that connect your kidneys and bladder) and into the kidneys. UTIs are caused by bacteria.
Thrush is also an infection but caused by excessive yeast growth rather than bacteria. This yeast is naturally present in small quantities in many parts of the body, especially the mouth, anus, and vagina. In certain circumstances, it can multiply rapidly, resulting in an infection in any of these areas. The type that can be mistaken for a UTI is vaginal thrush.
When you first notice symptoms, it’s not always obvious which you have. Both can cause discomfort and pain in the genital region, but thrush is a yeast-based infection that occurs in and around the vagina and a UTI is a bacterial infection in the urinary tract.
Although both conditions cause discomfort and pain, there are also some distinct symptoms that can help identify which one you may have.
While anyone of any age can get UTIs and thrush, the female genital anatomy makes women far more likely to acquire one of these infections. That’s because the vagina, anus, and opening of the urethra are all very closely located. The shape (especially the labia) traps moisture and heat, creating the ideal environment for bacteria or yeast to multiply.
UTIs are more likely to occur in women who:
Thrush is more likely to occur in women who are experiencing particular hormonal changes. Women of menstruating age are more likely to get thrush just before their period, Women who use a hormonal contraceptive and those who are pregnant are also more at risk.
Other contributors include:
As mentioned earlier, bacteria and yeast are always present in the genital area, but a change in their balance or environment can allow them to thrive.
There are a few types of bacteria that cause UTIs. These are found in the bowel and around the vagina, with small quantities often making their way into the urethra. However, with regular urination, the bacteria are flushed out and don’t cause any problems. If greater quantities of bacteria are introduced to the urethra, or the environment is changed, the bacteria may start to multiply rapidly and cause a UTI.
Similarly, the yeasts that causes thrush are present in small numbers around the vagina and anus. It’s kept in check through the balance of micro-organisms and the body’s natural immunity. With a change to these conditions, excessive growth can occur and result in an infection.
If you suspect you have a UTI, make an appointment with your GP. They’ll take a urine sample to confirm which type of bacteria is responsible for the infection and then prescribe a course of antibiotics. They may also recommend medication to manage the pain while the antibiotics take effect.
For thrush, there are over-the-counter remedies available at your local pharmacy. You can choose between a pessary (inserted into the vagina) or an oral tablet. There are also brands of ointment that are applied to the area to relieve the itching and pain. Ask the pharmacist about the various options.
If you’re uncertain which you may have, or your symptoms don’t match either of these conditions, make an appointment with your doctor and have it checked out.
While some women are genetically or anatomically predisposed to UTIs, there are still steps you can take to reduce the probability of acquiring one.
In summary, both conditions can be extremely uncomfortable, and prevention is better than cure. That said, they can be difficult to avoid all the time, and most women will have at least one or the other, or both, at some stage in their lifetime. If you find the treatments are not working or that the condition is frequently returning, see your doctor.
Asaleo Care makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.