Healthy Living

How Are UTIs Diagnosed?

How Are UTIs Diagnosed?

Key Takeaways

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common form of infection that affects the bladder, kidneys and the tubes that connect them.
  • A UTI can be easily identified by its signs and symptoms. 
  • Laboratory urine analysis and urine cultures are used to diagnose a UTI. 

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common form of infection that affects the bladder, kidneys and the tubes that connect them together. They are quite common and account for almost 8.1 million visits to health care professionals every year. A UTI can easily be diagnosed and treated by a health care professional.

Symptoms of a UTI

Symptoms will vary depending on the location of the infection. UTIs often affect the lower urinary tract which includes the bladder and urethra, but can also reach the kidney and ureters. As such, symptoms will vary depending on the primary area of infection:

  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Sudden urges to urniate
  • Pain around the lower area of the stomach
  • Foul-smelling urine which can be cloudy or contain blood
  • Fatigue
  • Pain on the lower back and stomach
  • Fever with body temperatures above 38 degrees Celsius
  • Shivering and chills
  • Restlessness and agitation

Laboratory tests for UTIs

These symptoms often deliver a positive diagnosis for a UTI, but since symptoms vary from one individual to another, they may not be enough. A patient’s recollection of symptoms can often be inaccurate, potentially exaggerating some symptoms, and suppressing others. For a doctor, it is very important to identify the cause of the symptoms, which is why secondary tests may be requested.

Urine tests

By performing a urine analyzing technique, a doctor or a general medical practitioner may be able to identify a UTI. A urine dipstick is used, and the doctor can identify the exact bacterial infection before administering antibiotics to the patient. The purpose of targeting a particular bacterium is to make sure that the antibiotics given are particularly sensitive to the bacteria. This diagnosis only takes a few minutes and the results are often conclusive.

Cultures

In rare cases, there might arise a need to send the urine sample to the laboratory for culture testing. This usually takes a few days for the results to come back, but it is also the most accurate procedure. This culture and sensitivity test is usually done in special cases such as when the patient is male, who have a lower chance of contracting UTIs comparatively to females. This procedure is not always necessary since most of urinary tract infections are caused by the same bacteria.

Medical procedures

Catheter

In cases of severe infection of the urinary tract, the patient might not be able to provide a urine sample, so the healthcare provider will have to acquire this via catheter. This is usually a thin tube that’s placed in the urethra and drains urine from the patient’s bladder.

For women, it may sometimes be necessary to perform a procedure that examines the pelvis for signs of infection. Such infections have similar symptoms to UTIs, and should be ruled out. As for men, infections of the prostate need to be ruled out as they have similar symptoms to that of a UTI.1