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UTI or STD? How to Tell the Difference

Understanding the difference between a UTI and an STD/STI can help you receive better treatmen. Here's what to know.

Frequent, urgent trips to the washroom along with lower abdominal pressure or pelvic pain and a burning sensation during urination could mean a urinary tract infection (UTI). However, it could also be a sexually transmitted infection (STI/STD) like chlamydia or gonorrhea. Because UTIs share symptoms with some STDs, many people incorrectly assume they have a UTI when they really have an STD, or vice versa.

So, how can you tell what’s causing your symptoms? While UTIs and STDs have some symptoms in common, there are also differences that can give you clues about the most likely cause.

What is a UTI?

In a urinary tract infection, also known as a UTI, bacteria infect any part of the urinary tract, which consists of the urethra, bladder, ureter, and kidneys. The most commonly affected area is the bladder.

Urinary tract infections can be uncomfortable but are usually mild. However, if not treated properly, the infection can spread and cause serious complications, especially if it reaches the kidneys.

What is an STD (STI)?

Sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, are a group of diseases that are most commonly spread through sexual intercourse. The bacteria, viruses, or parasites that cause the STD can be present in semen, vaginal secretions, blood, and saliva. Because of this, other forms of contact, anal and oral sex, or skin contact with an infected area (with genital warts) can also spread the disease.

How can you tell the difference between an STD and a UTI?

Some STDs have several symptoms in common with UTIs. These symptoms can include pain or burning with urination. UTI’s often have a frequent or urgent need to urinate, a feeling of incomplete bladder emptying, and cloudy, dark, or strange-smelling urine. However, STDs can have additional symptoms that are not present with a UTI. These symptoms include:

  • Pain during intercourse

  • Genital blisters, sores, or rashes

  • Sore throat

  • Nausea

  • Fever

  • Spotting between periods

The presence of any of these symptoms indicates that the condition may be an STD and not a UTI. In addition, because STDs and UTIs have different modes of transmission, this can sometimes provide a clue to telling them apart.

While STDs are spread primarily through sexual contact, UTIs are not generally transmitted through sexual acts (with the exception of anal sex acts). UTIs are most frequently caused when bacteria called E. coli move into the urinary tract. This is often caused by wiping from back to front, holding your urine for too long before using a washroom, or using a diaphragm or spermicide for birth control.

Should I See a Doctor for an STD or UTI?

If you have any of the symptoms of a possible STD or UTI, it is advisable to visit a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. A UTI or STD cannot be treated at home, as these conditions will not disappear without the right medication.

Where can I get tested and treated for an STD or UTI?

Visit your physician or an urgent care clinic like Physicians Immediate Care to receive testing and treatment for an STD or UTI. Our Telehealth service is a convenient way to receive care for your UTI. Reserve your Telehealth visit today!

At WellNow, your physician will conduct a full medical exam and diagnose your condition through testing. For UTIs and most STDs, medication will be prescribed to treat the infection. While some STDs have no known cure, your physician can provide advice on how to manage the disease and prevent transmission to others. If you would like us to bill your insurance company, please know that STD testing and treatment can be expensive, depending on your provider and plan. Not all insurance companies pay for a preventative screening if you don’t have symptoms.

To find a WellNow clinic near you, view our convenient location map and reserve an appointment online, or simply walk into any of our clinics at your convenience. Each of our clinics are open extended hours and are staffed by compassionate health care providers with a high level of expertise in their field. Visit us today for your examination.