Sexually Transmitted Diseases can exhibit symptoms like painful urination and genital discharge which some people can mistake it for a UTI – Urinary Tract Infection. Some of the UTI’s symptoms can resemble STDs, which makes it harder to distinguish from one another and to diagnose and cure. In this article, we explain what is a UTI and how it is different from STDs, their symptoms, and treatment.
What is a UTI?
UTI is a short form of Urinary Tract Infection that is highly common in people who do not take care of their personal health and hygiene. UTI is caused by several factors, primarily it occurs due to a type of bacteria called Escherichia coli (E. coli). In terms of gender, women are more prone to get a UTI than men at a rate of 8 times according to NIH. The bacteria first affects the outer parts of your genitals and slowly invades your body through the urinary tract causing ruptures and inconvenience while passing urine.
What are STDs?
Sexually Transmitted Diseases are a type of infection that has a primary mode of transmission as intimate contact through genitals – which includes vaginal, oral, and anal sex. It is caused by highly contagious agents like bacteria, viruses, and parasites. STDs are also commonly referred to as Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) or Venereal Diseases. These diseases are widespread around the world and more common than UTIs, according to an estimate by World Health Organisation (WHO), there are nearly 1 million new STD cases reported every day around the world.
Is UTI an STD?
If you have had sex with multiple sex partners in the past or are currently sexually active, then the chances are you have an STD rather than a UTI as the symptoms can show up late in most cases. It is estimated that 1 in every 5 adults in the US have an STD and most of them don’t have a clue they have one. STD symptoms tend to show up
However, if you aren’t sexually active and have symptoms of UTI (explained below), then you need to check for UTI with a Urine Culture test.
Thus, UTI is not an STD nor vice versa. But the symptom of both can resemble each other and can be difficult to identify which one you are infected with. It is always a good choice to get tested for both infections.
Symptoms of UTI
More women are vulnerable to urinary tract infections than men which is due to the structure of the urethral tract in the vagina compared to the penile which makes the bacteria invade easier. However, men also get affected. Following are some of the symptoms of UTI in men and women –
- Dysuria (burning sensation during urination)
- Foul and bad-smelling urine
- Pressure in the lower belly
- Pain and discomfort in the lower abdomen
- Lower back pain
- Periodic bathroom trips
- Milky, cloudy, or reddish color urine
- Presence of blood in the urine
- Nausea and vomiting
- Confusion or mental changes (only in older people)
Symptoms of STDs
Signs of STDs can be difficult to differentiate from a UTI and often the symptoms do not show up even after multiple days after the initial exposure. As the symptoms can also take several weeks, this is the most common reason for the STDs to be widespread as the active individuals keep on spreading the diseases even without their own knowledge.
Following are the most common symptoms and signs of STDs in men and women:-
Symptoms of STDs in women
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Pain during urination
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
Symptoms of STDs in men
- Thick penile discharge
- Burning sensation while urinating
- Swelling and pain in the testicles
- Itching in the anus
- Irritation in the penis
- Painful bowel movements
Causes of a UTI
When bacteria gets into your urinary bladder it can lead to infections, causing UTIs.
- Sexually active women are prone to get infected (men can also) with urinary tract infections.
- Women use certain types of birth pills like a diaphragm or spermicide.
- Pregnant women as fluctuating hormones can influence the bacteria in the urinary tract, resulting in UTIs in women.
- Postmenopause can lead to Ph disturbance that results in vaginal dryness and can cause UTI in women.
In men, enlarged prostate, and an uncircumcised penis can be major causes to get a UTI. Both men and women can be susceptible to UTIs due to diabetes as the sugar content gets excreted quite often which may lead to UTI.
Causes of STDs
Sexually Transmitted Diseases are by their name can define the cause of an infection. Sexual contact with an infected person, including anal, oral and vaginal sex can lead to the transmission of the bacteria and viruses that cased STDs to immigrate to your healthy body. STDs are caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that causes symptoms accordingly. STDs caused by bacteria and parasites include Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, and Trichomoniasis. HIV and Herpes are caused by viruses that are incurable to date.
Treatment for UTI
A urinary tract infection is mostly treated with the help of antibiotics. Depending on your symptoms and assessing your infections, your physician will prescribe the antibiotics. The infection can also be treated by drinking plenty of water as it helps to flush out the bacteria that has occupied your urinary tract while frequent urination.
Taking vitamin C supplements can help boost the immune system improving the chances of faster recovery from the infection.
Treatment for STDs
Typically STDs can be classified into two types – curable STDs and incurable STDs. STDs that are caused by bacteria and parasites can be terminated with the help of antibiotics and treated completely. On the other hand, there are STDs like HIV and Herpes that have viral agents as their causing factors which have no medicines that can treat them. Treatment for STDs completely depends on what type of STD you have acquired.
What happens if UTI is left untreated?
Leaving UTI untreated for a long time can lead to severe health consequences. It can rupture your urinary tract and infect your kidneys. Permanent kidney damage and malfunction are also inevitable if you do not take steps to treat and cure the infection. However, compared to STDs, the UTI’s long-term untreated consequences narrow down to particular organs – kidneys and urinary tract. STDs have wider consequences like neurological diseases, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis to name a few if they are not addressed in the early stages.
What happens if STDs are left untreated?
Leaving STD symptoms like body rash untreated may lead to severe consequences in the long run. Women can face PID, which is a Pelvic Inflammatory Disease that damages the female reproductive system. Both men and women who have untreated STDs can suffer from infertility if left for a long time. Some STDs can open up the doors to getting infected by other STDs like they can lead to HIV/AIDS which can further lead to other health diseases like cancer or tuberculosis.
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