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Understanding Incontinence

Understanding the difference between a UTI and Thrush

UTIs and thrush are both infections but distinctly different conditions. Find out which you might have, the causes, treatments, and how to avoid them reoccurring.



Published by Sagar Luthra
Understanding the difference between a UTI and Thrush

What’s the difference between a UTI and thrush?

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.


Symptoms of UTIs and Thrush

Although both conditions cause discomfort and pain, there are also some distinct symptoms that can help identify which one you may have.



  • An excruciating, burning pain when passing urine, sometimes described as ‘passing razor blades’.
  • Sudden, urgent, and frequent messages to urinate – but often passing very little. This can also occur during the night, interrupting sleep multiple times throughout the night.
  • Pain in the pelvic region, lower back, and sometimes the sides.
  • Foul-smelling urine that may be cloudy and sometimes contains traces of blood.


Vaginal Thrush

  • Severe and constant itchiness of the area, including the vulva, vagina, and anus.
  • Pain when urinating or having sex.
  • Pain and swelling of the genitals.
  • An unusually thick, white, curd-like, odourless discharge.

Who gets UTIs and Vaginal Thrush?

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:

  • Are sexually active. Friction and various sexual activities can transmit bacteria from the anus and surrounding area into the urethra.
  • Have gone through menopause  Hormonal changes can cause the urethra to be drier, offering less defence against bacterial growth.
  • Are pregnant or have given birth to multiple children
  • Are obese. According to an American health report;  obesity can reduce immunity and raise the level of glucose in the urine, increasing the probability of contracting a UTI by 45%. The glucose provides a food source for the bacteria, encouraging it to multiply
  • Have diabetes – for similar reasons as above
  • Have another urinary issue such as kidney stones, or other blockage that’s causing urine retention. Urine that remains in the body for too long becomes an ideal environment for bacteria to breed
  • Have a weakened immune system or a genetic predisposition.


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:

  • High blood sugar due to poorly managed diabetes or obesity
  • Recent or current use of antibiotics or steroids. These disrupt the natural balance of bacteria and other micro-flora in the vagina, which can trigger the yeast that is present to multiply rapidly
  • The use of products like douches (internal vaginal washes) can also upset the natural micro-organism balance
  • Compromised immunity


What are the causes of UTIs and Vaginal Thrush?

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.


How are UTIs and vaginal thrush diagnosed and treated?

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.


How to prevent UTIs and vaginal thrush?

While some women are genetically or anatomically predisposed to UTIs, there are still steps you can take to reduce the probability of acquiring one.

  • After using the toilet, always wipe from front to back to avoid transferring bowel bacteria to the urethra opening
  • Practice good sex hygiene – cleaning the area well before sex and emptying your bladder afterwards to flush out any transferred bacteria
  • Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water so you’re urinating frequently enough to flush out bacteria


For thrush:

  • Avoid tight clothes around the crotch such as jeans, tights, and leggings as these can trap heat and moisture. This is particularly important if you’re seated for extended periods, like a long-haul flight or bus trip
  • Aim to achieve dry, cool skin in the area. Avoid synthetic fabrics that generate sweat and heat and keep it trapped against the area. Choose natural materials for underwear like cotton or bamboo that draw moisture away from the skin and change out of sweaty activewear or wet swimwear as soon as you can.
  • Choose showers over baths and don’t use douches, harsh or heavily perfumed soaps that can interfere with the body’s natural microflora and defence


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.