Can a UTI Cause a Headache and Fatigue?

Between 50-60% of all women develop at least one UTI in their lifetime, making this a common infection that many people suffer from.

The most common symptoms of UTIs include painful urination and frequently needing to go to the bathroom. However, headaches and fatigue can also accompany a UTI, although they often signify a more serious infection. 

What Is A UTI?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) arises when bacteria, fungi, or viruses enter the urethra and travel through the urinary tract. Through the urinary tract, these pathogens can infect the urethra, ureters, bladder, or kidneys.

UTIs most commonly occur in the bladder, but in more severe cases, they can evolve into kidney infections.

Additionally, most UTIs are caused by bacteria, with the bacteria that most often cause UTIs being E. coli.

Does A UTI Cause Headaches?

UTIs, in general, do not typically cause headaches. However, the symptoms of a UTI may contribute to a headache.

For example, dehydration can commonly occur in those with a UTI if they want to avoid urinating since it is painful. Dehydration, though, may be causing your headache. 

Studies have also found that headaches are common in those with a kidney infection, so a headache may signify that the infection has spread to the kidneys.

A headache as a sign of kidney infection is especially likely if a fever accompanies it. If this is the case for you, it is best to talk to a doctor about your symptoms since kidney infections are more severe conditions. 

Can A UTI Cause Fatigue?

Fatigue is a feeling of consistent weakness or tiredness, and while it is a common symptom that can be due to many things, it is also a classic sign of an infection. In fact, many women experience fatigue before any other signs of a UTI.

Those with a weak immune system, whether from medication, medical condition, or age, are more likely to experience fatigue in the early stages of a UTI.

However, fatigue can also be a sign that the UTI has spread to your kidneys.

Can A UTI Affect Your Head in Any Way?

In rare cases, your UTI may spread beyond the urinary tract to your brain. When this occurs, it is often accompanied by confusion or dizziness.

A UTI can reach and impact the brain if it spreads to the kidneys. This is because the bacteria can enter the bloodstream from the kidneys, where they can then travel throughout the body, including to the brain.

To prevent a UTI from impacting your head, treating the infection as soon as you notice symptoms is crucial.

What Are the More Common UTI Symptoms?

The most common symptom of a UTI is a burning or painful sensation when urinating. Those with a UTI often also feel as though they need to pee more often (and more urgently), although very little urine is excreted from the body when they go to the bathroom.

In some cases, the UTI may have symptoms such as blood in the urine or foul-smelling urine, which is due to the increase in bacteria that produce foul-smelling gasses as a byproduct.

How To Relieve UTI Symptoms?

If you are experiencing unpleasant symptoms with your UTI, the follow tips can help. 

Drink Water

Drinking water can help to relieve many of the symptoms of a UTI.

First and foremost, drinking water means that you will pee more, which provides more chances for the bacteria causing the infection to leave the body.

Additionally, drinking water can help to relieve any headache that you may have from dehydration.

Avoid Sugar

For those suffering from fatigue, sugar may seem like a great idea to boost your energy. The problem with this, though, is that the energy boost from sugar is only temporary, and when it leaves your body, your fatigue will be even greater than before.

Rest

Fighting an infection is hard work, and this can make you feel tired. If you’re feeling tired, don’t try to fight it and instead rest. Whether that means relaxing on the couch, taking a nap, or going to bed early, make sure you don’t ignore your body’s desire for rest.

Not only will resting more help to relieve fatigue, but it can also help your body fight the infection faster, which will then relieve all symptoms.

Wear Loose Clothing

Tight clothing, especially tight pants, increases the chances of moisture and friction, which can further irritate your UTI symptoms. Instead, opt for light and breathable clothes to help relieve your symptoms and promote healing.

How To Treat A UTI?

The only way to treat and cure a UTI is through antibiotics, although some mild cases may go away on their own.

For most cases, though, a short course of antibiotics is typically needed to kill the bacteria causing the infection or prevent the bacteria from reproducing and spreading.

When To See a Doctor?

Since the bacteria that cause UTIs can travel up the urinary tract to the kidneys if left untreated, it is important to see a doctor as soon as you suspect you have a UTI. Your doctor can make a diagnosis based on your symptoms or the results of a urine test. 

If you are taking an antibiotic to treat your UTI, but your symptoms have not improved, it is recommended to speak to your doctor; they may need to prescribe a different antibiotic.

Get Help from An Online Doctor

If you suspect that you have a UTI, you can meet with an online doctor to discuss your symptoms. With DrHouse, you can meet with a doctor in just 15 minutes and receive your antibiotic prescription virtually.

If you have any concerning symptoms, such as a headache, fever, or confusion, you can also discuss them with your doctor and see what your next steps should be.

Key Takeaways

UTIs occur when bacteria enter the urethra and travel through the urinary tract. While the most common symptoms include painful urination and frequently needing to urinate, some people may also develop fatigue or headache.

Fatigue is a common side effect of infection because of the energy the body exerts fighting the infection. Additionally, headaches are common side effects of dehydration, which is often present in those with UTIs.

To relieve UTI symptoms, be sure to rest, drink plenty of water, and avoid eating a diet too high in sugar. If these recommendations do not resolve your fatigue or headache, it is often best to discuss them with a doctor, as they may be a sign of a kidney infection.

Sources

  • Al-Badr, A., & Al-Shaikh, G. (2013). Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections Management in Women: A review. Sultan Qaboos University medical journal, 13(3), 359–367. https://doi.org/10.12816/0003256 
  • Medina, M., & Castillo-Pino, E. (2019). An introduction to the epidemiology and burden of urinary tract infections. Therapeutic Advances In Urology, 11, 175628721983217. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1177/1756287219832172 
  • Park, B., Park, S., Park, J., Park, K. (2016). Headache attributed to acute pyelonephritis. Neurology asia, 155-160. 
  • Okamoto, T., Sato, Y., Yamazaki, T., & Hayashi, A. (2013). Clinically mild encephalitis/encephalopathy with a reversible splenial lesion associated with febrile urinary tract infection. European Journal Of Pediatrics, 173(4), 533-536. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1007/s00431-013-2199-9 
  • Flores-Mireles, A., Walker, J., Caparon, M., & Hultgren, S. (2015). Urinary tract infections: epidemiology, mechanisms of infection and treatment options. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 13(5), 269-284. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1038/nrmicro3432 
  • Belyayeva M, Jeong JM. Acute Pyelonephritis. [Updated 2022 Jul 5]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519537/ 
  • Hudson, C., & Mortimore, G. (2020). The diagnosis and management of a patient with acute pyelonephritis. British Journal Of Nursing, 29(3), 144-150. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.12968/bjon.2020.29.3.144 

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.

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