Studies suggest that between 50 and 60 percent of women will experience a UTI at some point in their lives, with the estimated rate of infection being 0.5 cases per person per year in young females. Among those, a significant percentage will develop dizziness and vomiting.
In this post, we explore what a UTI is, some of the symptoms that it can cause, and its relationship to feeling sick and unsteady on your feet.
What is a UTI?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection that occurs in either the bladder, the kidneys, or the tubes connecting to them. Infection typically migrates from the anus into the urethra where it can become established.
Due to anatomical differences, women are much more likely to experience UTIs than men. The anus is much closer to the vaginal and urethral openings, making it easier for fecal matter to migrate to these areas. Once intestinal bacteria, such as E.coli, become established in the urogenital system, they can start to produce symptoms, though not always.
The consequences of a UTI can be severe. Studies indicate that approximately 23 percent of patients visit the emergency room because of them, and 16.7 percent of cases require hospital admittance.
What are the common symptoms of a UTI?
The most common symptoms of urinary tract infections are frequent urination, pain while peeing, and pain in your side. Many patients experience burning pain in their urethra and acidic urine irritates inflamed and infected tissues. They may feel the need to empty their bladder continuously or every few minutes, only passing small quantities of urine at a time.
Due to the presence of bacteria, urine itself can change color. Cloudy urine indicates the presence of pathogens and the body’s own defensive cells, while pink urine suggests bleeding somewhere in the system.
Urine may also smell stronger than usual. As bacteria multiply, they produce pungent waste products.
Can a UTI cause dizziness and nausea?
For some people, UTIs can result in dizziness. The infection causes the cardiovascular system to lower blood pressure, leading to lightheadedness, weak muscles, and, in some extreme cases, the inability to stand without assistance.
UTIs can also cause nausea. Feeling sick is often a sign that the infection has reached the upper abdominal area and requires immediate medical attention. Failure to administer antibiotics quickly can lead to debilitating kidney disease.
Both dizziness and nausea are general symptoms. Therefore, your doctor will conduct a blood test, urinalysis, or both to determine whether a UTI is a likely cause. In some cases, you may need to undergo further scans.
Can UTI cause confusion?
UTIs can cause confusion in some older people (and those with cognitive impairment or conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease). Symptoms come on suddenly and can include agitation, increased aggression, or withdrawal from social situations.
Why can UTIs cause dizziness?
There are several reasons why UTIs cause dizziness.
Lower Blood Pressure
Lower blood pressure reduces the rate at which blood reaches the brain. Lack of oxygen to nerve cells can make patients feel faint.
Ototoxic Antibiotics Side Effects
Antibiotics clear up most urinary tract infections within three to fourteen days. Unfortunately, some have ototoxic side effects, disrupting the balance apparatus of the middle ear. Not all antibiotics are ototoxic, though, so if you are worried about this side effect, you can raise it with your doctor.
When a person has a UTI, they may decide to drink less. After all, if they constantly have the urge to pee, consuming as little water as possible makes sense.
Unfortunately, dehydration can lead to dizziness, particularly orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure when you stand up). Furthermore, it can worsen the infection. With less passing urine, bacteria have a greater opportunity to multiply, making it harder for the immune system to eliminate them.
How to treat a UTI
UTI treatment typically requires combining proper hydration with orally administered antibiotics. Doctors will instruct their patients to drink between two and three liters of water per day while taking antibiotics courses for between three and fourteen days, depending on the patient’s gender and location of the infection.
Patients should not drink acidic beverages, such as coffee, tea, or soda. And they may want to combine conventional antibiotic therapy with cranberry juice or fruit supplementation, an old remedy for cystitis.
In some cases, you may be able to treat a UTI without antibiotics by drinking cranberry juice and staying hydrated. However, most infections will get worse without drugs.
How to prevent a UTI
There are several ways you can prevent (or reduce the likelihood of getting) UTIs. These include:
- Wiping from front to back when you visit the restroom
- Peeing after sexual intercourse
- Practicing good sexual hygiene (such as both partners showering beforehand)
- Drinking two or more liters of water per day
- Washing after pooping
- Steering clear of irritating feminine products
- Reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption
- Avoiding animal products, particularly raw chicken
When to see a doctor?
If you have UTI symptoms, you should see a doctor. Without urgent care, UTI infections can result in nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, and severe damage to the kidneys. Eventually, sepsis can occur, a life-threatening condition that requires immediate emergency attention.
Sometimes symptoms clear up by themselves after a few days. However, this is rare. Most infections become progressively worse over time.
Get help from an online doctor
If you believe that you may have a UTI, you can get help from an online doctor. These medical professionals discuss your symptoms and the best course of treatment for you. Generally, women’s bladder infections require just three days of antibiotics whereas kidney infections require between seven and fourteen.
- Around 50 to 60 percent of women will develop a UTI at some point in their lives
- Dizziness and nausea are symptoms for many patients
- Dizziness can occur because of low blood pressure, ototoxic side effects of antibiotics, or dehydration during UTI infection
- Some UTIs can go away by themselves, but most require antibiotics
- Anyone who suspects that they have a UTI should consult with an online doctor about their treatment options
- Medina M, Castillo-Pino E. An introduction to the epidemiology and burden of urinary tract infections. Ther Adv Urol. 2019 May 2;11:1756287219832172. Available from: 10.1177/1756287219832172
- Al-Badr A, Al-Shaikh G. Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections Management in Women: A review. Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. 2013 Aug;13(3):359-67. doi: 10.12816/0003256
- Minardi D, d’Anzeo G, Cantoro D, Conti A, Muzzonigro G. Urinary tract infections in women: etiology and treatment options. Int J Gen Med. 2011;4:333-43. Available from: 10.2147/IJGM.S11767.
- Mody L, Juthani-Mehta M. Urinary tract infections in older women: a clinical review. JAMA. 2014 Feb 26;311(8):844-54. Available from: 10.1001/jama.2014.303
DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.