Yeast infections and bladder infections have many similarities. Both affect the genital area and both are found most often in women. Some of their symptoms even overlap. However, these two conditions affect completely different bodily systems and are treated by separate means. Understanding why bladder infections and yeast infections are different means first understanding what each one is.
A yeast infection is an inflammation of the vagina due to the presence of new yeast or an increase in the yeast that was already there. The number one symptom of a yeast infection is itching in the vaginal area. You may also experience burning, painful sexual intercourse or painful urination. In some, but not all, cases, there is an odorless, cottage cheese-like vaginal discharge associated with a yeast infection.
If you experience these symptoms, see your health care provider, who will take a scraping from your vaginal walls. A laboratory analysis will give you a definite diagnosis. Your health care provider will generally write a prescription or suggest an over-the-counter antifungal cream that can be applied topically. Some antifungal medications can be taken orally.
A bladder infection (also called a urinary tract infection or cystitis) is an inflammation of the urinary system caused when bacteria is spread from the skin, the intestinal tract or the stool into the urethra, the channel through which urine is excreted from the body. One of the first signs of a bladder infection is painful urination. You may also discover that you have an increased urge to urinate or problems urinating at all. When the urine does come out, it may be cloudy or bloody.
Your health care provider can diagnose a bladder infection with a simple urine analysis. If you do have a bladder infection, your health care provider may prescribe a course of antibiotics or suggest an over-the-counter medicine to help with the symptoms. If left untreated, a bladder infection can work its way up the urinary to the kidneys, causing a serious kidney infection.
The main difference between a yeast infection and a bladder infection is that they affect separate bodily systems. A yeast infection affects the vagina and your reproductive system. A bladder infection affects your urethra and the rest of your urinary system. Even though your urethra is located in your genital area and can be affected by a worsening yeast infection, it has nothing to do with sex or reproduction.
Yeast infections and bladder infections are often associated with one another because their symptoms both manifest themselves in your genitals. Yeast infections also often follow bladder infections. This happens because the antibiotics often used to treat bladder infections kill all the bacteria in the urinary tract and subsequently in the vagina. The vagina's delicate balance of good and bad bacteria is then disturbed, causing a yeast infection. In some cases, a yeast infection can cause a bladder infection because some of the excess bacteria in the vagina can work its way into the urethra. This can lead to a cycle of bladder and yeast infections.
Preventing the Cycle
Early treatment can prevent a yeast infection from causing a bladder infection and vice versa. As soon as you notice the symptoms, see your health care provider for advice. If you have a history of or are at risk for either condition, your doctor may suggest treatments other than antibiotics, such as cranberry supplements.
Bacteria thrive in warm, moist-covered places, so keep your genitals clean and dry. Wash them at least once a day and especially after sexual intercourse. Also, avoid wearing tight underwear or pants in material that does not breathe. Keeping yourself hydrated will also allow your body to flush excess bacteria from it, preventing both bladder infections and yeast infections.