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Urinary tract infections (UTIs) and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are often confused for one another by patients or even physicians due to their overlapping symptoms. Understanding both conditions and identifying the differences between the two are important as the management and treatment for both differ.
The urinary tract system consists of the kidneys, the ureter, the bladder, and the urethra. An individual can develop a UTI when bacteria invade and infect any part of the urinary tract system.
The types of UTIs are named according to the part of the urinary tract that has been infected, these are:
STDs are a constellation of pathogens (bacteria/virus/fungi) that can be passed on during sexual intercourse or sexual contact, leading to an infection of the sexual partner. STDs are usually transmitted from one infected individual to another, thus requiring a source.
There are various types of STDs, some common STDs include:
There are overlapping symptoms between UTIs and STDs, though, there are also differences in both presentations. It is imperative to tease out the differences between the 2 conditions as their treatment varies.
These are some symptoms that may differ between UTIs and STDs:
|Increased urge and frequency of urination||√||√|
|Fever||√||√ (less common)|
|Blood in the urine||√||Unlikely|
|Cloudy and smelly urine||√||Unlikely|
|Vagina/urethral/abnormal rectal discharge||Unlikely||√|
|Spotting/bleeding between periods||Unlikely||√|
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above or other unusual symptoms relating to the urinary or genital region, it is important to speak to your doctor to evaluate your symptoms further.
Yes, some bacteria from STDs can affect the urinary tract system, leading to urethral discomfort, discharge, or even painful urination. The treatment for STDs and UTIs is different, therefore it is essential to administer the right test based on a person’s symptoms presentation.
No, the bacteria that cause urinary tract infections are usually the bacteria floral found in the genito-urinary system or even the gastrointestinal system. They are generally not directly passed on through contact and are not transmissible through sexual activities. Likewise, treatment for UTIs and STDs differs, and it is equally important to see your doctor to evaluate your clinical symptoms and ensure you are receiving the right treatment.
If you have any abnormal urinary symptoms suggestive of a UTI, you should speak to your doctor and consider getting medical treatment for UTI before the symptoms deteriorate. Although there are possibilities of a mild UTI resolving spontaneously over time, severe cases of UTI can lead to ascending bladder infection, kidney infections, or even blood infection (sepsis) that can be dangerous. Hence, you should not delay seeking medical treatment if you suspect a UTI. Most uncomplicated cases of UTIs can be managed by your primary doctor with appropriate antibiotics and lifestyle modification advice.
Generally, STDs can be asymptomatic, or present with genitourinary symptoms (this was discussed in a previous article). It may even have symptoms that overlap with a UTI. If you have a risk of exposure to STDs or concerning symptoms, you are advised to speak to your doctor to guide you on the appropriate STD screening tests to consider. Your doctor can also advise you on measures in both medication and lifestyle to reduce your risk of acquiring STDs.
In the case of UTIs, as previously discussed, there is a chance of your UTI infection not resolving and resulting in an ascending infection – affecting the bladder, kidneys, or even bloodstream. In such circumstances, you can become unwell with symptoms such as a fever, chill and rigors, worsening urinary discomfort pain, blood in urine, and inability to pass urine, which may lead to hospitalisation or even potential life danger if an infection of the bloodstream occurs.
In terms of STDs, while most of the common STDs are treatable, there are some STDs that have more major implications for your long-term health as they may not be curable (such as HIV, Hepatitis infections, etc). Therefore, seeking medical assistance for both UTIs and STDs is paramount in preventing long-term detrimental health effects.
The following advice can be considered to reduce developing UTI after intercourse:
The below practice(s) helps to minimise the transmission of STDs:
There is often confusion between a herpes viral infection and shingles infection.
Human Papillomavirus, also known as HPV, is a common virus that can affect anybody, including those who are married or in a steady monogamous relationship.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD), and alternatively known as sexually transmitted infections (STI) are spread via sexual contact, transmitted from a person to another through contact with body fluids such as blood, vaginal fluid or semen.
Genital Herpes is a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) cause by herpes simplex virus (HSV). It can be passed on via contact through vaginal, anal or oral sex. The symptom usually clears up on its own.
Gonorrhea is a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) caused by a bacteria known as Neisseria gonorrhoeae or gonococcus.
Mycoplasma genitalium is a sexually transmitted infection that causes infection in the genital tract or urethra.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STD) or infections (STI) are serious conditions that can develop after having unprotected intercourse. At our clinic, we offer treatment for the following STDs: