Written on December 20, 2023 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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If you’re experiencing increased urinary frequency, you may be worried about infections, including sexually transmitted diseases. There are many conditions and STDs that can cause frequent urination.
Both urinary tract infections and some STDs can cause similar symptoms, including painful urination and increased urinary frequency. Generally speaking, urinary tract infections don’t cause vaginal discharge. Many times, an STD will cause vaginal discharge, but some STDs can also cause urinary tract infections. The only way to know if your urinary symptoms are related to a UTI vs. an STD is to get tested.
Yeast infections are another common cause of frequent urination. Yeast infections are frequently associated with thick yellow or white vaginal discharge and irritation of the skin and mucosa near the vagina. The discharge is usually odorless. Itching is also another frequent complaint of yeast infections, as is pain with urination or intercourse. Yeast infections are more common in people with diabetes, decreased immune systems, or those who have recently been on antibiotics. They are also more common in women.
A few other conditions can cause you to experience increased urinary frequency. Bacterial vaginosis is an overgrowth of the normal bacteria that live in the vagina. This condition can cause a thin, white, or green discharge with a fishy odor.
Interstitial cystitis is another cause of frequent urination. This is a chronic disabling condition that can cause pain and inflammation of the bladder. It is characterized by negative urine cultures.
Chlamydia is an STD that can cause frequent urination. It is one of the more common STDs and can affect both women and men. Chlamydia can be transmitted by oral, genital, or anal sexual contact. In addition to increased urinary frequency, it is associated with painful urination, vaginal discharge, pain with intercourse, and in some cases, pelvic inflammatory disease or chronic pelvic pain. Pelvic inflammatory disease can cause severe complications such as scar tissue, long-term pain, infertility, or ectopic pregnancy. Regular testing for chlamydia is recommended in certain groups. Chlamydia can be easily tested in the urine.
Gonorrhea is another common STD that can cause increased urinary frequency and can affect the genital tract, the mouth, or the rectum. Gonorrhea is associated with symptoms such as rash, arthritis, and tendonitis. Like, chlamydia, gonorrhea can cause PID and infertility. Gonorrhea testing can be performed in the urine.
Syphilis is causing growing concern amongst healthcare providers because it is on the rise. Syphilis is a bacterial infection that is spread by direct contact with a sore through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It can cause painful urination or increased urinary frequency, especially if the sore is near the urethra. If you see any kind of sore in the genital area, you should seek care from a healthcare provider. Regular testing for syphilis, through a blood test, is recommended for certain high-risk groups.
Trichomonas is a little different than other STDs in that it is caused by a protozoan parasite. This infection is spread by sexual contact with the lower genital tract. In women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB), the infection affects the vulva, vagina, cervix, or urethra. In men and people assigned male at birth(AMAB), the infection is usually found in the urethra. It doesn’t commonly affect other parts of the body like some other STDs can. Trichomonas can cause frequent urination, severe itching and burning of the genital tract, painful urination, discharge from the penis or vagina, or no symptoms at all. Trichomonas can be diagnosed by laboratory testing and exam.
STDs can have a long-term impact on your health. If untreated, STDs can cause serious health conditions and, in some cases, can be life-threatening. Birth control can help prevent pregnancy, but in most cases, it doesn’t protect against STDs. Take charge of your sexual health. If you are concerned about STDs, Everlywell has at-home lab tests to evaluate for STDs. We also have clinicians who can provide telehealth visits to discuss your situation and give you advice on how to protect yourself.
Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP is a board-certified Family Physician. Since completing her residency training in 2010, she’s been practicing full-scope family medicine in a rural setting. Dr. Foglesong Stabile’s practice includes caring for patients of all ages for preventative care as well as chronic disease management. She also provides prenatal care and delivers babies. Dr. Foglesong Stabile completed a teaching fellowship in 2020 and teaches the family medicine clerkship for one of her local medical schools. Dr. Foglesong Stabile’s favorite thing about family medicine is the variety of patients she sees in her clinical practice.