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Urinary tract infections, commonly known as UTIs, are infections that affect the individual’s bladder, urethra, or kidneys.
UTIs can come in many different forms depending on where they affect the body. Cystitis, for example, refers to an infection of the bladder, urethritis concerns the urethraand kidney infections for the kidney.
In general, UTIs are treated by the prescription of antibiotics, but this is not always necessary due to the implications of long-term or regular antibiotics use.
In many cases, medical professionals can recommend a specific diet, other medications that may be available, and further programmes for combatting UTIs. In many cases, medical professionals recommend painkillers in combination with the other methods mentioned above.
For many years, the link between UTIs and alcohol consumption has been highly debated: does alcohol cause UTIs? Can alcohol be drunk when individuals have a UTI? What is the effect of alcohol on UTIs?
This post will go through the key features of a UTI, how they’re diagnosed, the complications that they may cause, and alcohol’s relation to all of the above.
In general, UTIs are caused when bacteria from outside the body enter and go into the urinary tract. This bacteria then multiply within the bladder to cause further infections.
Generally, this bacterial infection originates from bacteria around the vagina and rectum: the skin around the openings to the body. However, bacteria do not usually go into the body, meaning that it does not generally cause any issues. In the cases that it does, this is because bacteria have entered the urethra.
There are many reasons why this can happen. For example, during sexual activity and after using the toilet.
Other factors such as menopause and the changes in oestrogen levels that come with this can also make some individuals more likely to contract a UTI, as well as having a bladder catheter present within the body.
In general, having a lowered immune system is also something that makes an individual more susceptible to infections and diseases, and this is no less true for UTIs. Elderly individuals, for example, may struggle with UTIs more than other demographics of the population due to their lowered immune systems (1).
Depending on the individual, a UTI may have no symptoms, or symptoms that are instantly recognisable and need immediate treatment.
However, when an individual does notice a UTI, here are the most common symptoms that they may experience:
Though not all individuals may experience the same symptoms in the same levels of severity, this list compiles the most common symptoms that medical professionals use to diagnose a UTI.
If an individual suspects that they may have a UTI, or if any of the symptoms mentioned above do not get better with rest and/time, then they may need to seek a professional diagnosis in order to get treatment.
Generally, a medical professional will go over the individual’s medical history, including any history of previous UTIs that they may have had. A physical exam may also be necessary at this point.
From this, the individual may need to complete a urinalysis test. This is where the individual submits a urine test to then be sent to a lab for further analysis.
At the lab, they look for differences in levels of substances that may normally be present in urine but can occur in differing levels to indicate an infection.
These tests include observing the levels of red and white blood cells, as well as bacteria and unusually high levels of protein.
For further analysis, individuals may need to undergo further scans and tests such as kidney and/or bladder ultrasounds, as well as intravenous pyelograms (IVP) – a number of X-rays are taken of the kidney, ureters, and bladder to check for abnormalities, kidney stones, and blood flow.
If a UTI is left untreated, the symptoms mentioned earlier in this article may also worsen, as well as lead to the development of further issues.
Kidney stones, for example, pose a great risk in long-term UTIs and can become much worse, sometimes leading to chronic bladder issues.
This can cause an individual a lot of pain, as well as causing them to need to urinate far more often, sometimes disrupting their everyday life in terms of social life and career.
As well as kidney stones, bladder stones can also cause issues with urination itself, sometimes becoming stuck in the exit of the bladder, causing further pain, pressure, and lack of ability to urinate without medical support.
This can cause serious kidney damage if left untreated.
The longer a UTI is left, the more difficult it can become to treat. This is why it is important to take any symptoms that an individual may be concerned about to their medical professional.
Even if it isn’t something major, just checking these symptoms can lead to a lower likelihood of contracting fewer UTIs in the future, as well as preserving the health of the urinary tract.
So, does alcohol cause UTIs? In short, no, alcohol itself does not directly impact the development of a UTI. Instead, some of the effects of alcohol within and on the body can increase the likelihood of developing a UTI.
The most common of these are listed below:
As mentioned above, alcohol is a strong diuretic, meaning that it can increase the frequency at which an individual has to urinate significantly.
When an individual consumes alcohol, they will visit the toilet more often, also leading to issues relating to dehydration.
This can be an issue in itself as individuals may struggle with the additional effects of dehydration, the most common of which being dizziness, tiredness, dry mouth, and struggles in concentration.
When an individual does become dehydrated, they are likely to pass urine that is very dark in colour, as well as possessing a strong smell. This can be a key sign to drink more water or to seek further medical assistance.
Individuals who are struggling with a UTI should seek help as soon as possible. This is because the effects of a UTI can often become worse when left for long periods of time, sometimes leading to further irritation and infection later along the line.
This is most noticeable in the effects that alcohol can have on the urinary tract and the kidney.
For example, infected urine that the individual has in their bladder can cause irritation and inflammation within the urinary system, most commonly on the lining of the bladder.
In addition, UTIs can cause the muscles in the urinary system to spasm, leading to a painful or burning feeling when passing urine. This can also affect how often the individual feels the need to empty their bladder.
In addition, further damage within the urinary tract and kidneys can cause pain and discomfort elsewhere, such as headaches, fever, back pain, and a general feeling of tiredness/illness.
If the individual has any of these symptoms and they begin to affect the individual’s everyday life, then they should seek medical advice as soon as possible.
The most common treatment for a UTI is the use of antibiotics. Despite the issues mentioned previously, this is still the most commonly prescribed treatment and is effective and efficient in treatment in most cases of UTIs.
However, it is also well known that the mix of antibiotics and alcoholic drinks is not recommended. This is because the two substances clash; alcohol can cause changes in the metabolism and functioning of the substance, making it less efficient in its treatment.
One commonly prescribed antibiotic for UTIs, Bactrim, is known for its adverse effects when mixed with alcohol.
The most common of these are listed below:
Medical professionals will generally recommend abstaining from alcohol while taking a course of antibiotics. This is the best way to ensure an effective and efficient recovery, without the adverse effects of mixing alcohol and risking disturbing the treatment process.
In general, individuals who go to their GP or local doctor with a UTI after confirming a positive UTI test will be faced with several options and/or suggestions. There are treatment options available for every case of a UTI.
Every individual case is different and therefore every individual will require a different course of treatment, some for both a UTI and alcohol issues.
However, the most common of these suggestions are listed below:
After receiving medical advice, individuals may be suggested to try some forms of self-care. These are both suggested for the treatment of UTIs, but also their prevention in the future.
One of the first things that medical professionals suggest is the administration of painkillers to alleviate any pain that the individuals may be struggling with. This will allow them to be more active in their everyday routine, but will also allow them greater freedom e.g., making it to a doctor’s appointment, etc.
Another tip is to rest as well as to drink enough fluids to pass pale urine throughout the day. Keeping the body hydrated will allow the system to flush out any harmful bacteria, as well as keep the urinary tract clear and active.
Cranberry juice is a popular suggestion for the treatment and wards off UTIs, though there is no medical research that supports this yet.
As a final suggestion, individuals struggling with UTIs are also suggested to avoid having sex as this can worsen the infection and lead to greater growth of bacteria within the urinary tract system.
Rehab 4 Alcoholism is specialised in helping individuals who may be struggling with substance abuse and its related effects, but we are happy to advise in any situation.
If you have been struggling with a UTI as a result of alcohol use, get in touch today for a member of our team to give friendly and confidential advice.
Whether you think your issue is minor or severe, please do not hesitate to contact Rehab 4 Alcoholism today on 0800 111 4108.
 Matsumoto, T., 2001. Urinary tract infections in the elderly. Current urology reports, 2(4), pp.330-333.
 Taari, K., Ruutu, M. and Lehtonen, T., 1990. Effect of alcohol on bladder function: A uroflowmetric and cystometric study. Neurourology and Urodynamics, 9(6), pp.591-594.
 Little, P., Moore, M.V., Turner, S., Rumsby, K., Warner, G., Lowes, J.A., Smith, H., Hawke, C., Leydon, G., Arscott, A. and Turner, D., 2010. Effectiveness of five different approaches in management of urinary tract infection: randomised controlled trial. Bmj, 340.
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