Urinary Tract Infection Test
How does the urinary tract work?
The role of the urinary tract is to produce and store urine. Urine is one of your body’s waste products. Urine is produced in the kidneys and travels through the ureters to the bladder. The bladder stores urine until it is emptied by urinating through the urethra, a tube that connects the bladder to the skin. The opening of the urethra is at the end of the penis in a man and above the vaginal opening in a woman.
The kidneys are a pair of fist-sized organs in the back that filter liquid waste from the blood and remove it from the body as urine. The kidneys balance the levels of many chemicals in the body (sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and others) and control the acidity of the blood. Certain hormones are also produced in the kidneys.
These hormones help control blood pressure, increase red blood cell production, and help strengthen bones. Normal urine does not contain bacteria and the one-way flow helps prevent infection. Still, bacteria can enter the urine through the urethra and travel to the bladder.
When you have a UTI, the lining of your bladder and urethra become red and irritated just like your throat when you have a cold. The irritation can cause pain in the pelvic area of your lower abdomen and even your lower back, and will generally make you feel like urinating more often. Burning or pain when urinating is the most common symptom. You may even feel a strong urge or need to urinate, but only get a few drops. This is because your bladder is so irritated that it makes you feel like you have to urinate, even when you don’t have a lot of urine in your bladder.
Sometimes you can lose control and leak urine. You may also find that your urine smells bad and is cloudy. Kidney infections often cause fever and pain in the upper back, usually on one side or the other. Kidney infections can often cause nausea and vomiting as well. These infections need to be treated right away because a kidney infection can spread to the bloodstream and cause a life-threatening health problem.
Large numbers of bacteria live in the area around the vagina and rectum, and also on the skin. Bacteria can enter the urine from the urethra and travel to the bladder. They can even travel to the kidney. But no matter how far they go, bacteria in the urinary tract can cause problems.
Just as some people are more prone to colds, some people are more prone to UTIs. Women are more likely to get a UTI than men because women have shorter urethras than men, so bacteria have to travel a shorter distance to reach the bladder.
Some factors that can increase your chances of getting a UTI are:
- Body factors
Women who have been through menopause have a change in the lining of the vagina and lose the protection that estrogen provides, reducing the chance of getting a UTI. Some women are genetically predisposed to UTIs and have urinary tracts that make it easier for bacteria to adhere to them. Sex can also affect how often you have UTIs.
- Natality control
Women who use diaphragms have also been found to have a higher risk of UTIs compared to those who use other forms of birth control. The use of condoms with spermicidal foam is also known to be associated with an increased risk of UTIs in women.
- Abnormal anatomy
You are more likely to have a UTI if your urinary tract has an abnormality or if you have recently had a device (such as a tube to drain fluid from the body) inserted. If you are unable to urinate normally due to some type of obstruction, you will also have a higher chance of getting a UTI.
Anatomical abnormalities in the urinary tract can also lead to urinary infections. These abnormalities are often found in children at a young age, but can still be found in adults. There may be structural abnormalities, such as bowel movements called diverticula, that harbour bacteria in the bladder or urethra, or even obstructions, such as an enlarged bladder, that prevent the body from draining all of the urine from the bladder.
- Immune system
Problems like diabetes (high blood sugar) also increase the risk of UTIs because the body can’t fight germs as well.
Can UTIs be prevented?
There are steps women can take to avoid UTIs:
- Certain forms of birth control, such as spermicidal foam and diaphragms, are known to increase the risk of UTIs in women. Check with your healthcare provider about other types of birth control.
- Drink plenty of fluids (about 2 L / day) to stay well hydrated.
- Don’t stop urinating when you need to and don’t rush to finish. Holding back your urine and not draining your bladder completely can increase your risk of UTIs.
- Cranberry juice or tablets can help prevent UTIs.
If you are concerned about a UTI, you should speak with your healthcare provider. UTIs can be found by testing a urine sample. Urine is examined under a microscope for bacteria or white blood cells, which are signs of infection. Your healthcare provider may also take a urine culture. This is a test that detects and identifies bacteria and yeast in the urine, which may be causing a UTI.
If you ever see blood in your urine, you should call your healthcare provider right away. Blood in the urine may be due to a UTI, but it may also be due to another urinary tract problem. If you have a fever and symptoms of a UTI, or symptoms that do not go away despite therapy, you should call a healthcare provider. You may need more tests, such as an ultrasound or CT scan, to check your urinary tract.
There are two types of UTIs: simple and complicated. Simple UTIs are infections that occur in healthy people with normal urinary tracts. Complicated UTIs occur in abnormal urinary tracts or when the bacteria causing the infection cannot be treated with many antibiotics. Most women have simple UTIs, while UTIs in men and boys should be considered complicated.
A simple UTI can be treated with a short course of antibiotics. A short 3-day course of an appropriate antibiotic will often treat most uncomplicated UTIs. However, some infections may need longer treatment. The pain and urge to urinate often goes away after just a few doses, but you should still take the full course of the antibiotic to make sure the entire UTI is treated, even if you feel better.
Unless UTIs are fully treated, they can often return. You should also drink plenty of fluids, especially at the time of a UTI. Postmenopausal women with UTIs may be helped with topical (vaginal) hormone replacement with estrogen. Since some patients may have other medical problems that prevent them from using estrogen, you should speak with your healthcare provider before starting any treatment.
If the UTI is a complicated UTI, then a longer course of antibiotics is given. Sometimes antibiotic therapy can be started intravenously (IV) in the hospital. After a short period of IV antibiotics, the antibiotics are given by mouth for up to 2 weeks. Kidney infections are often treated like complicated UTI.
Symptoms of UTIs often improve within a few days of antibiotics. As long as all UTI symptoms resolve after the course of antibiotics is complete, you do not need another urine culture to show that the infection is gone.
Depending on the situation, if you have a complicated UTI, you may need a urine culture to show that the UTI is completely gone. If your symptoms don’t go away even after antibiotics, you may need a longer course of antibiotics, a different antibiotic, or a different way to take it.
Between 20% and 40% of women who have a UTI will have another. Men are less likely to get a UTI in the first place. But if they have one, they likely have another because bacteria tend to hide inside the prostate.
If you have frequent UTIs (3 or more per year), you should see your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider may want to do more tests (such as checking to see if the bladder empties) to find out why. If you continue to have UTIs, a longer course of low-dose antibiotics or taking an antibiotic after sex may help. There are also self-diagnostic methods that your healthcare provider can arrange to allow you to diagnose and treat your UTIs at home.