STI vs. UTI: Which One Is It?

UTIs and STIs both cause painful urination, but their other symptoms differ

Painful, burning sensations during urination could be a urinary tract infection (UTI) or one of the sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that feel like a UTI. STIs (sometimes referred to as STDs or sexually transmitted diseases), including chlamydia and gonorrhea, can cause burning during urination and pelvic pain similar to UTI symptoms. Identifying whether symptoms indicate an STI vs. UTI can be tricky. 

Continue reading to learn more about the symptoms and differences between an STI and a UTI, as well as when you should see a healthcare provider.  

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STI Symptoms

STIs are infections that are passed from one person to another during sexual contact, including oral, vaginal, and anal sex. Some STIs can also be passed through close touching and skin-to-skin contact. STIs can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites.

Frequent or painful urination is a common symptom of STIs.  However, other STI symptoms can differ depending on anatomy. It’s also common to have an STI that has no symptoms at all. 

The common symptoms of STIs in people with a penis are:

  • Burning or itching on or around the penis
  • Dripping or discharge from the penis
  • Sores, bumps, and blisters on the penis, anus, or mouth
  • Pelvis pain
  • Pain during bowel movements

The common symptoms of STIs in people with a vagina are:

  • Burning or pain when urinating
  • Urinating more often
  • Pain or itchiness in the vagina
  • Abnormal discharge, bleeding, or odor from the vagina
  • Pain during sex
  • Sores, bumps, or blisters around the vulva, vagina, anus, or mouth
  • Pelvic pain

Screening for Symptoms

Even STIs without symptoms can be passed to partners and cause damage to your long-term reproductive health. If you’re sexually active, regular STI screenings are an important part of preventive healthcare. 

UTI Symptoms

Urinary tract infections happen when bacteria enter the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the vulva or penis. UTIs can happen to anyone, including children, and they are not STIs. However, having sex increases your risk for UTIs, particularly for people with vaginas.

The symptoms of a UTI are the same regardless of sex. They include:

  • Pain or burning during urination
  • More frequent urination
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Feeling the urge to urinate even when your bladder is empty
  • Bloody urine
  • Pressure and cramping in the groin or abdomen

Sometimes, a UTI can travel from the bladder to the kidneys. If you develop a kidney infection you may experience:

  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain in the lower back and sides

STIs vs. UTIs: Key Differences

Without medical testing, determining whether you have a UTI or an STI can be difficult. While painful and frequent urination are symptoms of both conditions, your other symptoms can indicate the sort of infection you have. 

For example, if you have discharge or skin changes like blisters, you’re more likely to have an STI, The urge to pee when your bladder is empty may indicate a UTI. 

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Both UTIs and STIs need to be treated by a medical professional. If you have a UTI, you’ll likely need treatment with antibiotics, which will kill the bacteria in your urinary tract. The treatment for STIs will depend on what infection you have and may include antibiotics. 


When you visit your healthcare provider for UTI or STI symptoms, you will likely undergo a physical exam, which includes an examination of your pelvis or genitals. Your healthcare provider may also order a urine test, which can be used to diagnose a UTI and some STIs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea.

If they suspect a different STD, they may swab your genitals to look for bacteria or viruses under a microscope. They may also order a blood test. 


UTIs and STIs can both cause painful, frequent urination. Your other symptoms can offer a clue to whether you have an STI or UTI. STIs are more likely to cause discharge from your genitals, while UTIs can cause a need to urinate even when your bladder is empty.

Both conditions require medical treatment, so whenever you experience painful urination it’s best to reach out to your healthcare provider so that you can get a prompt diagnosis and treatment. 

A Word From Verywell 

Talking to a healthcare provider about your sexual health and your genitals can be uncomfortable. Just remember, they've seen it all. Both UTIs and STIs are common and are nothing to be ashamed of. Getting treatment quickly can help you feel better, so don’t delay. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does chlamydia feel like a UTI?

    Chlamydia can cause painful, burning urination that feels like a UTI. However, most people with chlamydia don’t have symptoms. It’s possible to pass along the infection, even if you’re asymptomatic. 

  • Does chlamydia show up on a UTI test?

    Chlamydia is not usually detected on a test given to diagnose a UTI but urine can be used to test for chlamydia. If you’re concerned about chlamydia, let your healthcare provider know.

  • Can gonorrhea cause a UTI?

    Gonorrhea cannot cause a UTI because they are two different infections. However, gonorrhea can have symptoms that are similar to those of a UTI, including pain during urination.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MedlinePlus. Sexually transmitted diseases.

  2. Urology Care Foundation. What are sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or diseases (STDs)?

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Urinary tract infection.

  4. Nemours. Why am I getting urinary tract infections?

  5. Sutton TL, Martinko T, Hale S, Fairchok MP. Prevalence and high rate of asymptomatic infection of Chlamydia trachomatis in male college Reserve Officer Training Corps cadetsSex Transm Dis. 2003;30(12):901-4. doi:10.1097/01.OLQ.0000091136.14932.8B

  6. Meyer T. Diagnostic procedures to detect chlamydia trachomatis infectionsMicroorganisms. 2016;4(3):25. doi:10.3390/microorganisms4030025

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Detailed STI facts—gonorrhea.

By Kelly Burch
Kelly Burch is has written about health topics for more than a decade. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and more.