Woman laying on couch holding her stomach

How do I know if I have a UTI?

By Sadie Crouch, RN, BSN Oct 12, 2022 • 3 min

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) include infections of the kidneys, bladder and urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder). UTIs are very common, especially among women. It’s important to be aware of the symptoms of a UTI so that you can see your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment.

What are the symptoms of a UTI?

UTI symptoms are not the same for everyone. It is even possible not to experience any symptoms with a UTI. Some of the possible signs and symptoms include:

  • Burning sensation when urinating
  • Cloudy, discolored or foul-smelling urine
  • Frequent urination or urge to pee even when the bladder is empty
  • Pelvic pain or cramping

If you’re experiencing symptoms of a UTI, it’s important to seek medical attention promptly. The only way to know for sure that you have a UTI is with a diagnosis from a health professional.

How is a UTI diagnosed?

A UTI is diagnosed with the help of a healthcare provider. Your provider may ask you to provide a urine sample to be analyzed. The urine analysis (urinalysis) identifies if there is something in the urine that shouldn't be there, such as bacteria, white blood cells (which can indicate infection) or red blood cells (blood in the urine that may not be visible to the naked eye). A culture of the sample can also be used to determine what bacteria are causing the infection. This can help guide your treatment and indicate to your healthcare provider which antibiotic will be most effective.

Other procedures may be used to further investigate the cause of complicated or recurrent infections. These procedures include CT scans, MRIs and cystoscopy (a scope inserted through the urethra and into the bladder) that can analyze your anatomy to determine if it's contributing to recurring infections.

Is it necessary to get an official diagnosis for a UTI?

If you think you have a UTI, you should get a diagnosis from a healthcare provider before starting any treatment. Even if you have symptoms that point to a UTI, you can’t know for sure without a proper diagnosis. Different health conditions and infections can cause similar symptoms. An accurate diagnosis is important so that you can be treated effectively. 

If your provider prescribes an antibiotic, it is critical to take the entire prescription and complete any recommended follow-up testing to make sure that the UTI is resolved, and you don’t develop an antibiotic-resistant infection. 

Published October 2022.

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