UTI or STI? Your Doctor Might Not Be Able to Tell the Difference

Not sure if you have a urinary tract infection (UTI) or a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?

If you’re a woman, your doctor probably won’t be that sure either.

New research has revealed that women who visit the emergency room to seek treatment for urinary pain will ultimately be misdiagnosed more often than not. A shocking 64% of female patients with an STI were diagnosed as having a UTI instead, according to the study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.

When pain during urinating is one of the top reasons why women seek out care, figures like these are alarming and could indicate that millions of women aren’t even aware they have an STI. While it’s true that this symptom is characteristic of UTIs, infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea are also characterized by pelvic pain and difficulty urinating.

Regardless of symptoms, doctors have a habit of giving out UTI diagnoses, Shape magazine reported on June 29. Approximately 24% of women diagnosed with UTIs displayed no UTI-related symptoms at all.

Despite years of efforts to discourage people from having unprotected sex, STIs remain troublingly pervasive. In the U.S. alone, there are a stunning 20 million new cases of STIs, all of which originate from just eight different viruses and bacteria, each year. By diagnosing their patients with UTIs and allowing their STIs to fester, doctors are putting their patients at risk for lifelong complications, including infertility. It also contributes to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

After viewing this study’s findings, it might seem reasonable to assume that doctors simply don’t have the right diagnostic tests available to them to make accurate assessments of their patients’ conditions. The study asserts this isn’t true — while symptoms of UTIs and STIs can overlap, there are simple diagnostic tests available that can easily identify which condition a female patient has.

For this reason, it’s crucial for women who visit the ER with pelvic or urinary pain to ask questions throughout their treatment. Make sure your doctor is testing your urine for other infections besides UTIs, and never automatically concede to a UTI diagnosis. Your health depends on it.


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