Urinary tract infections

27 September 2023

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are a common occurrence; 60% of women will have at least one during their lifetime.  

While men can get a urinary tract infection, the likelihood is much lower due to having a longer urethra. 

How do you get a UTI? 

Urinary tract infections are often caused when bacteria enter the urethra and travel into the bladder. Sometimes they can even travel into the kidneys. 

Just as some people are more prone to colds, some are more prone to UTIs and have urinary tracts that make it easier for the bacteria to cling on to. 

Urine is produced in the kidneys, and although it is typically sterile, if bacteria are in the urinary tract they can multiply and cause a UTI. 

Types of birth control, frequency of intercourse, anatomy, and hormonal factors can all play a part in whether, and how often, you experience an infection. 

What are the symptoms? 

One of the first things you may notice is burning pain when you urinate. 

You may also find your bladder doesn’t feel empty, even after you’ve used the toilet. Because the bladder is so irritated, it tricks your brain into feeling that way, even when there’s nothing left inside. 

Symptoms may also include pain in your lower back or abdomen. Other conditions can cause similar symptoms, including sexually transmitted diseases like Chlamydia and yeast infections - if you are not sure, you should seek medical advice.

Getting tested

If you have described your symptoms to a doctor and they would like to send a specimen for testing, you will need to submit a urine sample. 

When your sample arrives at our labs, it is reviewed under a microscope to determine the number of white, red, and skin cells.

The urine is then streaked onto an agar plate; then the waiting game begins. 

If there is no visible growth after 24 hours, the sample is considered negative. If growth is visible on the agar plate, the bacteria causing infection is identified and antibiotic resistance testing is conducted. The most common bacteria causing UTI is E. coli.

Treatment

Based on the report from the lab, your doctor will prescribe you antibiotics for the infection. 

If your symptoms don’t start to improve within a few days, they get worse, or you develop fever and back pain despite treatment, it's vital to let your doctor know. Untreated UTIs can sometimes lead to kidney issues. 

For detailed information about pathology tests and specific conditions visit pathologytestsexplained.org.au

Time for your next pathology test? Find a collection centre closest to you.

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