What’s your first thought when you feel a UTI coming on? After, “Ohhhh no”, it’s usually, “Is this really a UTI or does it just feel like one?”
The only way to find out is to test it. And since UTIs aren’t one-size-fits-all, there are many different testing methods to choose from. So which UTI test is most effective? And how can accurate testing impact how well your infection is treated?
First, let’s regroup on what exactly a UTI is. A urinary tract infection occurs when bacteria enters your urinary tract and spreads. UTIs are most commonly found in the bladder, but can also happen in the ureters, urethra, kidney, or prostate. Although bacteria typically gets flushed out of your system when you pee, the peskier ones can stick around and cause some frustrating side effects.
What does the beginning of a UTI feel like?
As annoying as these side effects might be, they’re also the flashing light telling you it’s time to get a UTI test. Here are a few of the most common signs that a UTI is coming in hot:
- Burning sensation when you pee
- Constant urge to pee (even if barely anything comes out)
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Bad smelling urine
- Abdominal, side, or back pain
If you’re experiencing any of the above, a test should be your very next step.
What does a positive UTI test show?
Most importantly, it shows that an infection is festering in your urinary tract. But a positive UTI test can also tell your doctor which types of bacteria are causing the UTI. This gives them a better idea of how to tackle the bacteria before the infection gets worse.
How do they test you for a UTI?
There are multiple types of UTI tests, all of which require a sample of your urine. (After all, the infection is in your urinary tract.)
Rapid dipstick testing is when you urinate on a testing strip to identify a potential UTI right away. The dipstick will usually change colour to show that an infection is present.
Urinalysis is a whole series of tests that a lab does on your urine sample. These tests look for any sign of an infection, like bacteria or white blood cells.
Urine culture testing is seen as the standard UTI test by most doctors, especially if they think your UTI is simple or uncomplicated (for example, if you’re healthy, not pregnant, or pre-menopausal). Using your urine sample, the test helps to identify the bacteria that might be causing the infection. Most of the time, a urine culture test is searching for one type of bacteria in particular: E. coli. (AKA, the bacteria that’s to blame for about 90% of all UTI cases.)
Antimicrobial susceptibility testing measures how sensitive the bacteria is to an antibiotic or antifungal drug, so your doctor can choose the best treatment. After a urine culture identifies a bacteria, it will usually be sent off for susceptibility testing to help your doctor craft a plan of attack.
Advanced UTI testing involves a number of innovative methods, like molecular testing, that can detect a wide range of bacteria. These types of tests can also help determine drug resistance in people who battle with recurrent UTIs.
How can I test my urine for a UTI at home?
Hoping to skip the trip to the doctor’s office? An at-home UTI test is a convenient way to check if that burning feeling down there might, in fact, be an infection.
Utiva’s UTI Test Strips, for example, offer two tests in one. Each strip checks for Leukocyte (white blood cells) and Nitrite (the presence of E. coli), which are both key signs of a UTI. All you have to do is urinate on the test strip and check to see if the colour indicators change within two minutes.
Apart from test strips, many labs will let you do a urine sample at home and ship it in to be tested for urine culture. If you’d rather pee in a cup in the comfort of your own home, ask your doctor about your options.
How accurate are UTI home tests?
At-home UTI tests can be a practical and affordable method for identifying a potential infection early. But it’s important to remember that a negative at-home test doesn’t necessarily mean you’re UTI-free.
There are certain circumstances, like complicated UTIs or incorrect test strips, where you might receive a false negative. When in doubt, always talk to your doctor about the right testing method for you.
My UTI test says I’m negative, but I still have symptoms. What should I do?
Even the most common UTI tests, like a urine culture, can skip past some important details. The test might not be looking at the diverse range of bacteria you already have in your bladder or how quickly a bacteria is spreading.
For example, urine culture testing is designed to identify fast-growing bacteria. If your UTI is being caused by slow-growing bacteria (or multiple types of bacteria at once), your urine culture results might come back negative.
Here’s where things can get risky. If a UTI is left untreated for too long, it can spread to your kidneys or blood and cause serious complications, like sepsis. That’s why listening to your body and being aware of your symptoms is crucial.
Still experiencing UTI symptoms, even after a negative test? Talk to your doctor about more advanced UTI testing options before relying on the first test out of the gate.
What are other ways to test for a UTI?
Do you suffer from chronic or recurrent UTIs, even after rounds of harsh antibiotics? Advanced UTI testing is here to help.
The medical world is developing incredible methods for UTI testing that go beyond the simple urine culture. Molecular testing, for example, takes a closer look at the DNA of infection-causing bacteria in your urinary tract. Like the other tests, this can also be done through one urine sample. These advanced diagnostic tests take the standard urine culture test and give it a major upgrade, accounting for more variants and resulting in fewer false negatives.
So, what’s the most effective UTI test?
The truth is, it really depends on the type of infection you have and your overall health. For some people, at-home testing strips may provide early detection to be able to can manage a UTI with home remedies. For others experiencing chronic UTIs, it might require advanced testing and seeing an urology specialist to get to the bottom of their UTI woes.
Ultimately, the most effective way to confirm a UTI is to see a healthcare professional for lab testing as soon as you feel the symptoms.
And if you want to take control of your urinary tract health to work towards preventing UTIs altogether (and the tests that come with ‘em), add UTI prevention to your daily health routine. Utiva’s Cranberry PACs supplement features 36 mg of PACs per dose — clinically proven to stop bacteria from sticking to your urinary tract lining and causing infection. To keep E. coli from doing the same, pair Utiva Cranberry PACs with D-Mannose for an extra burst of protection against recurrent urinary tract infection.
Ready to build your UTI prevention plan? Head to www.utivahealth.ca to get started.