Alcohol use may be the root cause of your bladder discomfort and urinary tract infections.

If you are prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs) and struggle to limit your alcohol consumption<, then you may wonder if drinking too much can cause a UTI. After all, some people get UTI symptoms after drinking alcohol. 

While alcohol does not directly cause UTIs, it can raise your risk of getting a UTI, as well as worsen your symptoms. Sometimes, alcohol use can even mimic the symptoms of a UTI, making you feel like you have an infection when you don’t have one. Additionally, avoid alcohol use with medications that treat UTIs.

Article at a Glance:

To recap, there are several important points to remember about alcohol and UTIs:

Alcohol cannot cause UTIs, which are only caused by bacteria

Alcohol can impair your immune system, which might raise your risk of a UTI

Sexual activity can also raise your risk of a UTI

Alcohol can also irritate your bladder, making UTI symptoms seem worse

Some antibiotics for UTI should not be taken with alcohol

Ask your doctor or pharmacist if it is safe to drink while being treated for a UTI

Alcohol can also cause other bladder problems, like bladder irritation without an infection

Does a Painful Bladder After Drinking Alcohol Mean I Have a UTI?

Discomfort in the bladder is known as cystitis. Cystitis can develop from a few different causes, the most common of which is UTI. You will likely suffer from unmistakable symptoms when you have cystitis. Some cystitis symptomsinclude:

  • Discomfort in the pelvis
  • Pain when urinating
  • Needing to urinate often
  • Feeling like you need to urinate right away
  • Abnormal color or smell in the urine

However, there is a difference between bladder discomfort and a UTI. Your bladder may bother you for reasons that are not due to infection. Often, having a UTI can lead to you having bladder discomfort or pain. Other substances, like alcohol, can also irritate the bladder lining and cause bladder discomfort. Therefore, a painful bladder after drinking alcohol does not always mean that you have a UTI. Your symptoms could be due to alcohol irritating your bladder. Regardless, if you think you may have a UTI, contact your doctor. If left untreated, a UTI can turn into a more severe infection.

Why Does Alcohol Make My Bladder Hurt?

Alcohol use can make your bladder hurt even if you do not have a UTI. The pain occurs because alcohol is highly acidic. In turn, the acid can irritate your bladder lining. The bladder irritation from alcohol is similar to how you may feel when you have a UTI, so it is easy to confuse the two feelings. One study shows that lowering your intake of irritating (acidic) beverages like alcohol may improve your urinary health.

Does Alcohol Cause UTIs?

While alcohol cannot directly cause a UTI, alcohol abuse may raise your risk of getting a UTI, for a few different reasons.

All UTIs are caused by bacteria which irritate and inflame the bladder. Alcohol cannot create bacteria in your bladder; therefore alcohol cannot directly cause a UTI. However, alcohol use is associated with other activities that can move bacteria closer to your bladder and cause UTI, like sexual activity. One study shows that there is an indirect relationship between alcohol use and UTI in some women because there was a relationship between alcohol use and sexual activity.

Alcohol can also harm your immune system. Alcohol interferes with many of the different immune system cells and chemical signals. A weaker immune system makes it hard for your body to fight an infection like a UTI. Research shows that you have a higher risk of getting infections if you drink alcohol.

Can I Drink Alcohol If I Have a UTI?

If you have a UTI, you are probably taking antibiotic drugs to kill the bacteria in your bladder. However, mixing alcohol and antibiotics is not safe. 

One of the most common antibiotics used for UTI is called Bactrim (sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim). Taking Bactrim with alcohol can lead to uncomfortable side effects, including:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Flushing
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Low blood pressure when you stand up

If you are prescribed Bactrim for a UTI, it is important to avoid alcohol. You should also avoid drinking alcohol for three full days after you have completed your Bactrim medication regimen. Waiting for several days before drinking alcohol will allow the Bactrim to clear from your system so you can avoid the side effects listed above.

If you struggle to stop drinking alcohol, The Recovery Village can help. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you in your recovery. The call is free and confidential, and you don’t have to commit to a program to learn more about alcohol rehab treatment.

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Editor – Camille Renzoni
Cami Renzoni is a creative writer and editor for The Recovery Village. As an advocate for behavioral health, Cami is certified in mental health first aid and encourages people who face substance use disorders to ask for the help they deserve. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more

U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Cystitis – noninfectious.” Reviewed January 23, 2018. Accessed April 14, 2019.

University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Disulfiram-like reactions.” Updated April 14, 2019. Accessed April 14, 2019.

Vincent CR, et al. “Symptoms and risk factors associated wit[…]pective cohort study.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, published in March 2013. Accessed April 14, 2019.

Dipak Sarkar. “Alcohol and the Immune System.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, published in 2015. Accessed April 14, 2019.

Janis M. Miller, et al. “Does instruction to eliminate coffee, te[…] A Prospective Trial.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, published in January 1, 2017. Accessed April 14, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.