Urinary tract infection

Diagnosing a urinary tract infection

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is diagnosed using 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 to make a diagnosis just by asking about your symptoms. 

When you need further tests

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.

Further testing is also 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 you'll develop complications – for example, if 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.

Other tests

Other tests that may be needed include:

CT urogram

A computerised tomography (CT) scan uses X-rays and a computer to create detailed images of the inside of the body.

The scan is painless and will usually take 5 to 10 minutes.

Read about how a CT scan is performed.

Cystoscopy

During a cystoscopy, a special instrument called a cystoscope (a thin, flexible telescope) is passed into your body so 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 help the cystoscope pass into the urethra more easily.

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

Ultrasound scan

An ultrasound scan may be used to rule out conditions such as:

An ultrasound scan is a painless procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of part of the inside of the body. It usually takes around 15 to 45 minutes.

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