Is it possible for stress to cause a UTI? On the surface, you might think the two things are unrelated. However, when you do more research into the matter, you discover a pretty clear link between stress and the urinary system. In this post, we explain the link and show why stress can cause a UTI.
Table of Contents
- What Is an Urinary Tract Infection?
- Can You Get a UTI From Stress or Anxiety?
- How Can Stress and Anxiety Cause a UTI?
- Can a Lack of Sleep Cause a UTI?
- What Are the Most Common Causes of UTIs?
- How Do You Treat a UTI?
- What Can You Do to Prevent UTIs?
- When Should You See a Doctor?
- Key Takeaways
What Is an Urinary Tract Infection?
Your urinary tract is made up of the following:
A UTI is an infection that’s discovered in any part of this system. Commonly, infections are found lower down the tract, mainly in the bladder and urethra. These infections are incredibly common – in fact, they’re the second-most-common infection in adults. Both genders are susceptible to them, but UTIs in women are more prevalent. According to recent statistics, 10 in 25 women are likely to have a UTI at some point – compared to just 3 in 25 men.
Can You Get a UTI From Stress or Anxiety?
Yes and no.
Starting with ‘no’, stress or anxiety is not directly responsible for a urinary tract infection. Nevertheless, many people suffering from high levels of stress or anxiety are likely to suffer from UTIs.
So, in this sense, you definitely can develop a UTI, though it will indirectly be caused by high stress levels.
How Can Stress and Anxiety Cause a UTI?
Fundamentally, it comes down to the reactions in your body when you are stressed. People suffering from stress, depression, or anxiety are likely to be in highly emotional states. Research shows that when your body is in this state, it can release different hormones that lead to imbalances. As a consequence, these imbalances may alter the way certain parts of your body act – such as the components of your urinary tract.
The main hormone at play is cortisol, which is the primary stress hormone in your body. Studies have indicated that elevated levels of this hormone can affect the immune system’s response. Essentially, this means it weakens your immune system, which can increase the chances of infections – particularly those in the urinary tract.
Stress can also make you change your daily habits, boosting the chances of getting a UTI. For instance, you might be extremely stressed at work, trying to finish a particular project. As a result, you are holding in the urge to pee because you are too focused on work. In turn, this greatly increases the chances of an infection.
Can a Lack of Sleep Cause a UTI?
Again, there can be an indirect link between a lack of sleep and urinary tract infections. Once more, we turn our attention to our old friend cortisol. This hormone is likely to be very high in people who don’t get much sleep, leading to the problems mentioned above.
So, much like stress, a lack of sleep isn’t going to technically cause a UTI, but it will increase the chances of you developing an infection if you don’t do something about it.
What Are the Most Common Causes of UTIs?
UTIs are actually caused by bacteria that enter the urinary tract. However, there are many ways this bacteria can end up there. Below, you’ll find some of the most common causes of urinary tract infections amongst the general population:
- Unprotected sexual intercourse
- Kidney stones
- Other issues that block the urinary tract
- Difficulty emptying the bladder
- Weak immune systems
- Not drinking enough
- Holding in urine for extended periods
- Not cleaning the genital area
How Do You Treat a UTI?
Typically, urinary tract infections are easily treated by a course of antibiotics. The symptoms are likely to disappear or get better within a few days of taking the medication. However, as always, you are encouraged to keep taking the antibiotics until the full course is complete. This can prevent instances when your infection clears up but then comes back because not all of the bacteria have been destroyed by the drugs.
Depending on how severe your infection is, you may be on antibiotics for over a week or just a few days.
It’s also common to receive pain medication if you are really struggling with the infection. However, most people see relief through antibiotics alone.
What Can You Do to Prevent UTIs?
Thankfully, preventing urinary tract infections is easier than you think. Many things can be done, most of which are simple habits you should do daily. Some ideas include:
- Drinking lots of water – this flushes out the urinary tract regularly, reducing the chances of bacteria forming inside
- Going to the toilet – don’t hold in your urine as it will increase the chance of an infection. If you need to go, go!
- Keep your private area clean – don’t forget to clean your genitals daily, especially before and after sexual intercourse. This can remove any bacteria that might linger on the surface and make their way up the urinary tract
- Urinate after sexual intercourse – this is particularly important for women who have unprotected sex. Urinating can wash out the urethra and get rid of any bacteria that might have entered during sex
- Don’t wipe from back to front – after going to the toilet, always ensure you wipe from front to back. Wiping from back to front can mean you accidentally wipe bacteria from your anus to your genitals, causing an infection. Again, this is primarily a problem for women!
There has also been some interesting research relating to probiotics as a preventative measure for UTIs. However, the research is still in its infancy and it is not yet clear if increasing your probiotic intake will prevent infections. But, it won’t hurt to get more probiotics in your system anyway.
When Should You See a Doctor?
See a doctor if you notice the first signs of a UTI. This will usually include pain when urinating, an itchy sensation in your genitals, and general discomfort. You may also see unusual discharge, and the infection is unlikely to go away without treatment.
Get Help From an Online Doctor
Are you concerned that you have a UTI? Don’t worry, you can consult with an online doctor today to get a diagnosis in no time at all. You’ll even be able to get a full prescription for antibiotics to help the infection clear up as quickly as possible!
Overall, stress can indirectly cause a UTI by increasing the chances of an infection developing. This is mainly down to the hormones released in the body when you are stressed, weakening the immune system and preventing it from stopping infections.
However, urinary tract infections are only caused by bacteria in the urinary tract. Reducing stress levels can help you fight off and kill this bacteria before it infects your body. You should also take steps to prevent UTIs, as seen above.
- Urology Care Foundation, Understanding UTIs Across the Lifespan (2016), available from: https://www.urologyhealth.org/healthy-living/urologyhealth-extra/magazine-archives/summer-2016/understanding-utis-across-the-lifespan
- Sanford MT, Rodriguez LV. The role of environmental stress on lower urinary tract symptoms. Curr Opin Urol. 2017 May;27(3):268-273. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1097/MOU.0000000000000379 . PMID: 28376513.
- You and Your Hormones, Cortisol, Available from: https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/cortisol/
- Morey JN, Boggero IA, Scott AB, Segerstrom SC. Current Directions in Stress and Human Immune Function. Curr Opin Psychol. 2015 Oct 1;5:13-17. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.03.007 . PMID: 26086030; PMCID: PMC4465119.
- Reid, G., Bruce, A.W. Probiotics to prevent urinary tract infections: the rationale and evidence. World J Urol 24, 28–32 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00345-005-0043-1