Can Alcohol Cause a Urinary Tract Infection?

Published On: December 21, 2022

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.

UTI causes


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).

What are the symptoms of a UTI?


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:

  • Frequent urinationgoing to the toilet more often than normal, constant feelings of needing the toilet
  • Pain during urinationa stinging or burning sensation around the area where the individual passes urine, which may vary in severity
  • Small amounts of urine even if the individual drinks a lot, they may not be able to pass as much urine as normal
  • Cloudy urine – where urine is usually clear, an infection may cause the urine to become cloudy, as well as having an abnormal urine colour
  • Strong smellthe individual’s urine may begin to smell strongly or worse than usual
  • Pelvic or back painthe individual may begin to feel pain around these areas, which can feel like pressure and may lead to feelings of nausea

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.

How are urinary tract infections diagnosed?

Two doctors in white coats and stethoscopes talking

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.


Woman under a blanket, lounging on the sofa

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.

Does Alcohol Cause UTIs?

People at a table toasting to a mix of drinks

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:

  • Bladder functionalcohol is known to affect the bladder, most often the muscle that forms the bladder lining (detrusor). Links have been drawn between alcohol consumption and instability within the bladder’s wall (2). This can both increase and decrease the frequency of the individual’s urination patterns due to the instability that alcohol can pose.
  • Alcohol is a diureticdiuretics are drugs that can increase the frequency of urination by sending signals to the kidneys to produce more. Although diuretics can be used to treat some conditions, alcohol is not a medical diuretic, and the additional urine that alcohol causes the body to produce can cause further issues.
  • Behavioural factorswhen an individual consumes alcohol, they make be more likely to engage in behaviours that can increase the risk of contracting a UTI. One of the most common of these is engaging in sexual activity. If an individual then fails to urinate after sexual intercourse, then they are more likely to contract a UTI.

Alcohol and The Bladder

woman drinking 2

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.

Alcohol and urinary tract and kidney infections

Table of smiling people clinking alcoholic beverages

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.

Can I Drink Alcohol If I Have a UTI?

alcohol damages liver

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:

  • headaches
  • increased heartbeat
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • shortness of breath
  • flushing (increased blood flow to face, neck, and upper chest)

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.

Treatment from a GP


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:

  • Self-care advice and recommendation for a course of painkillersthis can include resting, taking time off of work, and other factors mentioned in the following paragraph
  • Prescription for a short course of antibiotics – this is only if absolutely necessary and will only be for a short amount of time before other options are considered. Effective in treating severe symptoms in the short term (3). These can be both high- or low-dose antibiotics depending on the individual case
  • Prescription for a short course of antibiotics with a suggestion to wait for symptoms to clearsame as above, but after waiting a period of 48 hours before beginning the course of treatment

Things you can do yourself


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.

Don’t Suffer Any Longer

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.


[1] Matsumoto, T., 2001. Urinary tract infections in the elderly. Current urology reports, 2(4), pp.330-333.

[2] 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.

[3] 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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