Vaginitis and UTIs: Does Vaginitis Cause UTIs?

In this blog, we will look into the depths of two common health issues affecting women: Vaginitis and Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). We will discuss the causes and symptoms of each individual condition, and explore the potential link between them, providing a comprehensive understanding of these prevalent medical concerns.
Greta Daniskova

Greta Daniskova

Greta is a BSc Biomedical Science student at the University of Westminster, London.

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What is Vaginitis?

Vaginitis (sometimes referred to as vulvovaginitis) is the inflammation and/or infection of the vagina (and vulva), the external portion of a woman’s genitals. It can be associated with itching, pain, discharge and odour, often most noticeable after sex. Vaginitis is more common in the reproductive years [1].

What Causes Vaginitis?

Vaginitis is typically a reaction to an environmental change that disrupts the usually friendly bacterial and yeast balance inside your vagina. There is more than one type of vaginitis, and each one has different causative factors.

1. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal infection in women aged 15-44 and occurs when the ‘good’ and ‘harmful’ bacteria living in a woman’s vagina are out of balance. Causes of imbalanced bacteria include antibiotics, douching, an intrauterine device (IUD), having unprotected sex with a new partner or many partners [1].

2. Yeast infections (candidiasis) are caused by excess candida growth in the vagina. Candida is the more formal term for yeast. It is a type of fungus and typically lives around us and inside us, including inside the vagina. For example, you might have too much growing there because of antibiotics, pregnancy, diabetes (more likely, if the diabetes is not well-controlled) and corticosteroid medicines [1].

3. Trichomoniasis is another factor which can lead to the development of Vaginitis. Trichomoniasis is a common sexually transmitted disease caused by a parasite [1].

4. Vaginitis can also be caused by contact irritation, if you are sensitive or allergic to products that you use, such as vaginal sprays, douches, spermicides, soap, detergents or fabric softeners. These can cause burning, itching and discharge [1].

5. Hormonal alterations can also promote vaginal irritation. Common examples include breastfeeding, or menopause [1].

What are UTIs?

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are bacterial infections that can occur anywhere in your urinary tract, which includes your kidneys, bladder, or urethra. They are among the most common bacterial infections worldwide, occurring in both community and healthcare settings. UTIs can range from uncomplicated to complicated, and are usually treated empirically [2, 3].

What causes UTIs?

UTIs are predominantly caused by bacteria. Most commonly, Uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC) is the culprit, but other pathogens that may cause UTIs are Klebsiella pneumoniae, Proteus mirabilis, Enterococcus faecalis, and Staphylococcus spp. These bacteria can travel up the urethra and reproduce in the bladder [2, 4].

The bacteria usually responsible for a UTI emerge from the skin or from the rectum. These germs move into the body via the urethra. If they make their way into the bladder, the UTI is called bacterial cystitis. In some cases, bacteria can migrate from the bladder into the kidneys increasing the likelihood of triggering a serious condition known as pyelonephritis [3].

Other risk factors, such as sexual activity, which can introduce bacteria into the urinary tract – or poor hygienic practices – can also increase susceptibility to the disease. Failure to treat UTIs can lead to pyelonephritis, which can in turn lead to kidney failure and, in some cases, death. The use of indwelling urinary catheters, which can leave the urinary tract open to bacterial infection, is another risk factor for UTIs. In fact, such ‘catheter-associated’ UTIs account for 40% of all cases of nosocomial (or hospital-acquired) infections [4, 5].

Relationship between Vaginitis and UTIs

Vaginitis and urinary tract infections (UTIs) are two distinct conditions that can affect women's health. However, they share some similarities and differences in terms of causes, symptoms, and treatment.

Although vaginitis does not directly cause UTIs, there is a relationship between the two. In one study, 75% of women with BV also had UTI.

Greta Daniskova

Greta Daniskova

Greta is a 2nd-year student currently pursuing her Bachelor's Degree in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Westminster in London. Currently, in her second year of undergraduate studies, she exhibits a keen interest in the dynamic field of healthcare. With a focus on understanding the intricacies of human biology and disease mechanisms, Greta is driven by a desire to contribute to advancements in medical research and patient care.