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Understanding Urinary Tract Infections -- Diagnosis & Treatment

How Do I Know if I Have a Urinary Tract Infection?

Most urinary tract infections are diagnosed by a description of your symptoms, such as painful, frequent urination, and a test of your urine for white blood cells, blood, and bacteria (urinalysis). A urine culture is another test that can tell the type of bacteria causing the infection, as well as help determine which antibiotic can best treat the infection.

Other tests may be ordered if your doctor thinks that there is some other problem causing the urinary tract infection, such as a kidney stone or a condition called reflux, in which the urine backs up from the bladder toward the kidneys, or if there is a history of recurrent infections.

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Because urinary tract infections in men are quite rare, most men who are diagnosed with a urinary tract infection will be advised to have other tests to determine if something else is responsible.

Other Tests for Urinary Tract Infections Include:

  • Blood tests
  • Ultrasound test of the urinary tract
  • X-rays of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder
  • CT scans
  • Cystoscopy, in which a long, thin telescope is inserted up the urethra to examine the inside of the bladder
  • Intravenous pyelogram, an X-ray test that uses dye so your doctor can better see the urinary system

What Are the Treatments for a Urinary Tract Infection?

Most cases of simple acute cystitis -- a single episode of a bladder infection -- in young women can be treated with a three- to seven-day course of an antibiotic. If symptoms come back, additional tests might be done to rule out other problems.

Pregnant women, patients with diabetes, patients with kidney stones or other obstructions to the flow of urine, and people who have had symptoms for longer than a week, should all be given a 5- to 14-day course of antibiotics. When infection has spread to the kidneys, then treatment should continue to 10-14 days. In men with prostatitis, the antibiotics should be given for several weeks.

You should also drink lots of water to help wash out the bacteria from the urinary system.

To confirm that the treatment was successful, your doctor may repeat urine cultures one to two weeks after you finish the antibiotic. Pregnant women who have been treated for an infection should have monthly urine tests performed until their baby is delivered.

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