Urinary tract infections in adults - Diagnosis 

Diagnosing a urinary tract infection 

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is diagnosed with a urine test, which can detect bacteria and blood in the urine.

However, if you're a woman and you have the typical symptoms of a lower UTI, your doctor will probably be able make a diagnosis by asking about your symptoms only. 

You won’t usually need further testing unless your symptoms don’t get better with treatment, or you keep getting UTIs that could be caused by abnormalities in your urinary tract. These further tests are intravenous urogram (IVU) and cystoscopy.

When you need further tests

Testing is recommended if:

  • You have a suspected upper UTI: these have a higher risk of complications than lower UTIs.
  • There is blood in your urine: this could be a symptom of other conditions. 
  • You’re a man: UTIs are uncommon in men, so it’s important to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms. 
  • You’re pregnant: pregnant women have a slightly higher risk of developing complications.
  • It's likely that you’ll develop complications, for example you have a weakened immune system.

Initial testing involves taking a sample of urine and testing it for bacteria. This confirms the diagnosis and is useful for deciding which antibiotics will be best for your treatment.

Further testing includes:

Intravenous urogram

An intravenous urogram (IVU) can assess the state of your urinary tract. Before you have the IVU, you’ll be injected with a special dye that shows up on an X-ray. The radiologist (X-ray specialist) will study how the dye moves through your urinary system to see whether there are any problems.

You may notice a metallic taste in your mouth and flushed, itchy skin when the dye is injected. This is normal and these symptoms should pass after a few minutes.

Cystoscopy

During a cystoscopy, a special instrument called a cystoscope (a thin, flexible telescope) is passed into your body so that the urologist (urinary tract specialist) can look inside your bladder.

A special jelly that contains local anaesthetic will be put into the opening of your urethra to numb the area and to help the cystoscope to pass into the urethra more easily.

A cystoscopy usually takes 5-10 minutes to carry out. The urologist will study the lining of your bladder and urethra to identify any abnormalities.

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Page last reviewed: 09/04/2012

Next review due: 09/04/2014

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