Do I have a UTI or an STI?

UTIs and STIs can have very similar symptoms and both require a visit to the doctor


UTI or STI — some facts first

In the United States, urinary tract infections (UTIs) account for 6 million patient visits annually, 90% of which affect female patients.  Sexual transmitted infections (STIs) amount to around 3 million cases, with roughly 80% due to chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis. Statistically speaking, when you notice something is wrong with your pee, or the process of peeing — a burning sensation, pain, strange color or odor — it’s more likely that it’s “just” a UTI. Of course, a UTI is a potentially serious condition in its own right, but it’s probably still better news than an STI.

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How to tell a UTI from an STI?

A urinalysis, and sometimes blood tests, are necessary to tell apart a UTI and an STI for sure. In other words, you need to visit your doctor.  UTIs and some STIs can have symptoms that overlap, so you can’t always tell the difference by how you feel or by looking at your urine. Even with testing, the diagnosis can sometimes be tricky. The American Society for Microbiology has noted that UTIs and STIs are often misdiagnosed, particularly in emergency rooms where there may not be enough time for thorough testing. One study concluded that approximately 65% of patients with an STI that wasn’t discovered were diagnosed with a UTI instead.

As you can see, thorough testing is very important and you definitely need to visit a doctor. However, here are a few guidelines on how a UTI is similar to a STI and how it’s different. 

First let’s take a look which symptoms are similar:

  • Burning sensation when urinating
  • Increased frequency of urination, and greater urge to urinate
  • Dark-colored or opaque urine
  • Strong, abnormal urine odor
  • Pain in the pelvic area

Essentially, all of the above are typical symptoms of a simple UTI. But they also can be experienced with some STIs. Additional symptoms on top of the above list, may indicate that you have an STI. Symptoms include:

  • Blisters inside the vagina and/or on the vulva.
  • Blood in the urine even when you don’t have your period
  • Unusual vaginal discharge other than blood
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Swollen joints
  • Sore throat 
  • Fever 

Any combination of additional symptoms makes it more likely that you have an STI rather than a UTI. However, fever can also occur with a UTI, or a kidney infection, which can occur when a simple UTI is not treated.  This is hen referred to as a "complicated UTI".That’s then called a “complicated UTI”.  Kidney infections - which can be dangerous and require urgent medical attention - can also produce whole body shaking and chills, nausea and vomiting, and pain in the flanks and back.  It is important that you see a physician right away if you suspect a kidney infection. 


  1. Storme, Oscar, et al. “Risk Factors and Predisposing Conditions for Urinary Tract Infection.” Therapeutic Advances in Urology, vol. 11, Jan. 2019, p. 175628721881438,, 10.1177/1756287218814382. Accessed 11 Feb. 2020.
  2. Tomas, Myreen E., et al. “Overdiagnosis of Urinary Tract Infection and Underdiagnosis of Sexually Transmitted Infection in Adult Women Presenting to an Emergency Department.” Journal of Clinical Microbiology, vol. 53, no. 8, 1 Aug. 2015, pp. 2686–2692,, 10.1128/JCM.00670-15. Accessed 11 Feb. 2020.
  3. Ayan Sabih, and Stephen W Leslie. “Complicated Urinary Tract Infections.” Nih.Gov, StatPearls Publishing, 5 Mar. 2019, Accessed 11 Feb. 2020.

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