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Urine Testing and When to Treat a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are also called bladder or kidney infections. UTIs are usually treated with antibiotics which kill germs (bacteria). Bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics (they can't be killed by antibiotics anymore), so you should only use antibiotics when you have an infection. Because antibiotics have side effects, they should only be used when you have a UTI.

You can have bacteria in your urine even if you don't have a UTI. This is common in older adults, and dosen't need to be treated unless there are symptoms.

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Symptoms​​

The main symptoms of a UTI can include one or more of these symptoms:

  • A burning fe​eling when you pee (urinate or pass water).
  • Feeling like you have to urinate often.
  • Fever or chills.
  • Pain in the lower belly (abdomen) or back.

Testing​​

Your healthcare provider will likely test your urine:

  • When you have symptoms of a UTI (see symptoms).
  • Before some bladder or kidney procedures.
  • When you are pregnant.

​ No Testing

Your healthcare provide​r should not test your urine:

  • When you do n​ot have symptoms of a UTI (see symptoms).
  • When your urine changes colour or has a smell, and you don't have UTI symptoms.
Cloudy or smelly urine usually means you need to drink more fluids.

When your health changes with no symptoms of a UTI

In older people, changes in your mood, balance, or how much energy you have, are not usually caused by a UTI. Before you have a urine test for infection, your healthcare provider will look at other more common causes of health changes, like:

  • Not drinking enough fluid (being dehydrated).
  • Not getting enough sleep.
  • Side effects from medicines.
  • High or low blood sugar.
  • Depression.
  • Other infections.
Treating a UTI

Your healthcare provider may start antibiotics without testing your urine or before they get the test results back. They may also decide to wait until your tests are back before prescribing antibiotics to you. See your healthcare provider if you've been taking the antibiotics for 2 days and your symptoms aren't getting better.​​

Current as of: October 3, 2018

Author: Pharmacy Services, Alberta Health Services