Can Dehydration Cause a UTI?

Do you drink water only when you feel thirsty? 

Most people do, but it’s a wrong approach. 

By then, your body has already started experiencing some symptoms of dehydration. 

Dehydration is more than thirst; it affects your health in many ways. 

But can dehydration cause UTI? Find out below.

What is a UTI?

Urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of any part of the urinary system, which includes kidneys, ureters, urethra, and bladder. Most infections occur in the lower urinary tract comprised of the bladder and urethra. 

While UTIs are more prevalent in women, men can develop them too. The infection results from bacteria entering the urinary tract through the urethra, then multiplying in the bladder. 

The most common types of UTIs are urethritis (infection of the urethra) and cystitis (bladder infection). The latter can be interstitial cystitis or recurrent cystitis. 

Various factors can contribute to UTIs and bladder infections, including urinary tract abnormalities, immune system suppression, kidney stone, kidney damage, kidney failure, enlarged prostate, catheter use, and recent urinary procedure or exam. 

Signs of a UTI

Some cases of UTI are asymptomatic bacteriuria. When UTI symptoms do occur, patients usually experience:

  • Persistent, strong urge to urinate

  • Strong odor of urine

  • Feeling like you have to urinate all the time

  • Fever 

  • Pain in the sides or upper back

  • Nausea

Symptoms of UTIs in men are similar to those in women and primarily revolve around dysuria (painful urination), urinary incontinence, and urinary frequency and urgency. 

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What is dehydration?

Dehydration is a condition that occurs when more fluids and water leave the body than you obtain through your diet or drinking water/beverages. It results from failure to replace the water content you lose. 

Some causes of dehydration are simple – a person doesn’t drink enough water. Certain health problems can also lead to dehydration. These include diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sweating, fever, and increased urination.

While everyone can be dehydrated, some people are at a higher risk. You’re more likely to be dehydrated if you work or exercise outside or if you have a chronic health condition such as uncontrolled diabetes mellitus and kidney disease.

Signs of dehydration

A common misconception is that thirst is the main indicator of dehydration. Many people, especially older adults, are dehydrated but not thirsty. 

Symptoms associated with dehydration in adults include:

  • Extreme thirst

  • Dizziness and confusion

  • Lightheadedness and/or syncope (passing out)

  • Fatigue

  • Dark-colored, concentrated urine

  • Dry mouth, lips, and eyes

  • Headache

  • Muscle cramps

  • Heart palpitations and orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure indicated by feeling dizzy or lightheaded when you stand up from sitting or lying down) 

In dehydration, thirst is accompanied by other symptoms. For that reason, it’s crucial to stay hydrated throughout the day. The urinary symptoms worsen with severe dehydration.

Can dehydration cause a UTI?

Dehydration can cause many problems and complications, including recurrent UTI. Evidence confirms bacterial growth in the urinary tract is prevented by various factors, including urine flow and voiding frequency. 

Even though urine is considered to be a culture medium for a vast majority of bacteria, it also exhibits antibacterial effects. Urine flow is necessary for diluting and removing bacteria from the urinary tract. 

More precisely, proper urination can protect you from UTIs. The bladder defense mechanism occurs due to the destruction of bacteria and vesical emptying due to the antibacterial activity of bladder mucosa. 

Even mild dehydration leads to reduced urine output and may increase susceptibility for urinary tract infections. For that reason, improving hydration is crucial for decreasing UTIs.

Even though more research on this subject is necessary, current evidence supports the link between dehydration and UTI risk. The mechanism is simple; lack of fluid in the body reduces urine output, which encourages bacterial growth. This is yet another reason for you to focus on drinking enough water during the day, something we tend to overlook.

How much fluid should you drink every day to prevent dehydration/UTI?

Staying hydrated throughout the day is vital for preventing dehydration and UTI. Adequate fluid intake is about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) for men and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) for women. About 20% of daily fluid intake comes from food and the remainder from drinks. 

The abovementioned are general guidelines regarding fluid intake. The exact amount depends on several factors such as your location, diet, season or temperature, activity levels, overall health. 

Ways to prevent dehydration

Fortunately, dehydration is preventable. Here’s how you can prevent dehydration:

  • Drink water throughout the day

  • Hydrate properly before, during, and after workouts

  • Don’t skip meals

  • Drink more water when you’re sick or in hot weather

  • Don’t count alcohol, energy drinks, or coffee as beverages that boost your hydration

Ways to prevent UTI

There’s a lot you can do to prevent urinary tract infections. These tips can help you out:

  • Drink water throughout the day

  • Empty your bladder before and after sexual intercourse

  • Drink cranberry juice

  • Wipe or wash your genital area every time after urinating

  • Avoid using shower gels and other products with harsh ingredients

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Dehydration affects our health in many ways. Most people aren’t aware that dehydration is also a risk factor for UTIs. 

You can avoid these problems, especially recurrent infections, by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Set up a reminder on your phone if you tend to forget to drink water.

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  1. Taylor K, Jones EB. Adult Dehydration. [Updated 2021 Oct.
  2. Beetz R. Mild dehydration: a risk factor of urinary tract infection? Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003.
  3. Lean K, Nawaz RF, Jawad S, Vincent C. Reducing urinary tract infections in care homes by improving hydration. BMJ Open Qual. 2019;8(3):e000563. Published 2019 Jul 10.

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