Urinary tract infections are more common than you think. They also present a variety of symptoms and side effects, but is there a link between UTIs and fatigue?
What is a UTI?
A UTI is an infection that forms within your urinary tract. This infection is typically caused by the presence of bacteria that finds its way into your urinary tract – usually via the urethra. There are different types of bacteria that can cause a UTI, with studies indicating the most common include:
- Escherichia coli
- Klebsiella pneumoniae
- Proteus mirabilis
- Enterococcus faecalis
- Staphylococcus saprophyticus
Of all of these, the top two are the two most likely responsible for the majority of uncomplicated UTIs in the world. E Coli is found in your intestines and digestive tract, and it can find its way out through the rectum where it could easily be spread to your urethra. This can happen through something as simple as wiping incorrectly after going to the toilet.
Can a UTI cause weakness and fatigue?
In most instances, UTIs will not directly cause weakness and fatigue. Indeed, as you’ll see later in this guide, neither of these things is a symptom.
Nevertheless, some of the symptoms of a urinary tract infection could lead to feelings of fatigue and weakness. Likewise, if the infection spreads higher up inside your urinary tract, then it could lead to these symptoms – but mainly because it might cause a kidney infection. If you are suffering from a kidney infection, then one of the main symptoms is weakness & fatigue.
Looking at the symptoms of a UTI, it is very common for people to suffer from an overactive bladder. In essence, you feel the urge to urinate more frequently than normal. To make matters worse, this happens at night more than at any other time. One study from 2017 shows sleep disturbances and fatigue are closely associated with overactive bladder symptoms. In other words, your UTI could make it harder for you to get a good night’s sleep because you are constantly waking up to urinate. Thus, you start suffering from fatigue as you aren’t well rested.
Is it normal to feel tired with a UTI?
Yes, it is perfectly normal to feel tired or fatigued when you have a UTI. Although this is not a direct symptom of this specific infection, your body will always be naturally weaker when you are fighting an infection. This is known as illness-related fatigue as the cells in your body are fighting hard to pool their resources together to try and rid your body of the infection. If anything, it’s a good sign; your body is trying to fight back!
Moreover, as discussed above, tiredness is likely to come as a side-effect of some symptoms of a UTI. If you can’t sleep because you’re always getting up to pee, then it is normal to feel tired the next day.
Can UTI antibiotics make you feel tired?
Again, it is entirely possible that the antibiotics you take to treat your UTI will cause tiredness. Typically, three of the main antibiotics used to treat this infection will be:
As it happens, these three are also known to cause tiredness and fatigue as a side effect. One of the reasons for this is that short-term antibiotics use can get disrupt the community of good microbes in your gut. Essentially, they destroy the good bacteria as well as the bad. When this happens, your digestive system doesn’t function as it should, which could lead to issues such as dehydration. In turn, you feel weak and fatigued.
How to combat UTI tiredness?
The best way to combat UTI tiredness is to treat the condition itself. Getting the right treatment will help you get rid of the infection, so you are less likely to feel tired and fatigued. It’s important to act quickly so you can stop the infection from spreading to your kidneys, which will lead to even more fatigue and weakness.
It is also a good idea to stay hydrated while you are taking your antibiotics. This counters the effect of the medicine on your gut bacteria, helping to prevent dehydration. Alongside this, taking probiotics can also be useful after the treatment to try and restore the good bacteria that was destroyed during the course of antibiotics. Again, this prevents the imbalance in your gut that leads to dehydration and fatigue.
Other UTI symptoms
Aside from tiredness and fatigue, what else should you look for to indicate that you have a UTI? Here are the common symptoms:
- A burning sensation when you urinate
- The chronic urge to urinate, especially at night
- Only urinating in small amounts
- Cloudy or bad-smelling urine
- Blood in your urine
- Lower back pain
Some people wonder if nausea or dizziness are signs of a UTI, and the answer is no. This will most likely be a sign of a more serious infection; usually, one that has spread to the kidneys.
How to treat a UTI?
As mentioned above, antibiotics are the only way to treat a urinary tract infection. You need to complete the full course to ensure that the bacteria is completely wiped away. If you stop taking your antibiotics too early, there’s a likelihood the infection will keep coming back.
When to see a doctor?
While UTIs are not that serious, they still require immediate treatment. Leaving your UTI untreated will mean it can spread further up your urinary tract and cause all sorts of kidney complications. Plus, the infection is unlikely to go away without antibiotics. So, the moment you notice any symptoms, contact a doctor right away.
At DrHouse, we provide virtual urgent care that lets you get seen right away and receive a diagnosis. If you have a UTI, we can prescribe treatment to help you fight the infection as soon as possible.
Can a UTI cause fatigue? Yes, but indirectly. Usually, UTI fatigue is caused by the symptoms of your infection disrupting your sleep. Similarly, an untreated infection could lead to a kidney infection, which will cause fatigue and weakness.
It’s also possible that you’ll feel tired while taking your antibiotics, but this is normal. Once the infection is gone, you should return to your usual energetic self.
- Flores-Mireles AL, Walker JN, Caparon M, Hultgren SJ. Urinary tract infections: epidemiology, mechanisms of infection and treatment options. Nat Rev Microbiol. 2015 May;13(5):269-84. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro3432. Epub 2015 Apr 8. PMID: 25853778; PMCID: PMC4457377.
- Ge TJ, Vetter J, Lai HH. Sleep Disturbance and Fatigue Are Associated With More Severe Urinary Incontinence and Overactive Bladder Symptoms. Urology. 2017 Nov;109:67-73. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1016/j.urology.2017.07.039 . Epub 2017 Aug 4. PMID: 28826875; PMCID: PMC5669629.
- Jennifer Crystal, Illness-related fatigue: More than just feeling tired (2020), Harvard Health Publishing, Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/illness-related-fatigue-more-than-just-feeling-tired-2020102121102
- Karen Scott, Do antibiotics ‘wipe out’ your gut bacteria? (2021), The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), Available from: https://isappscience.org/do-antibiotics-wipe-out-your-gut-bacteria/