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Home Test for Urinary Tract Infections

Test Overview

You can buy dipstick test kits without a doctor's order (nonprescription) to use at home to check for urinary tract infections (UTIs). Talk to your doctor about using a test kit. Make sure that your doctor knows about any abnormal test results, so that a urinary problem is not missed.

The urinary tract consists of the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra. Urine in the bladder normally is sterile—it does not contain any bacteria or other organisms (such as fungi). But bacteria can enter the urinary tract through the urethra.

Urinary tract infections are more common in women and girls than in men. This may be partly because the female urethra is shorter and closer to the anus, which allows bacteria from the intestines to come into contact more easily with the urethra. Men also have an antibacterial substance in their prostate gland that reduces their risk.

The dipstick test kit contains specially treated plastic strips (dipsticks) that you hold in your urine stream or dip into a sample of your urine. The strips test for a substance (called nitrite) produced by most urinary tract infections. Certain types of strips also test for white blood cells (leukocytes). Some types of dipsticks can test for both nitrite and leukocytes, but most types test for only one or the other. An area on the end of the strip changes color if you have an infection.

Most urinary tract infections can be easily cured with antibiotics. But an untreated infection may spread to the kidneys and cause a more serious problem. If you use a home test kit, make sure that your doctor knows about any abnormal test results, so that a serious problem is not missed.

Why It Is Done

A self-test for urinary tract infections is done under the direction of your doctor to:

  • Find a urinary tract infection (UTI), especially in people who have frequent UTIs. Certain conditions increase the risk for having a UTI, such as if you are pregnant, have diabetes, or have a condition that affects urine flow (such as kidney stones, stroke, or spinal cord injury). In adults, a UTI usually causes symptoms such as pain or burning during urination, frequent urination, or the sudden and repeated urge to urinate. But older adults and young children with UTIs may not have these symptoms. For this reason, experts recommend that older adults and children see a doctor for a possible UTI.
  • Check how well treatment of a UTI is working. If you are being treated for a UTI, you can test your urine at home to see whether the antibiotics have cured the infection. If you get frequent UTIs, you may be able to test yourself for infection.
  • Test young children who have frequent bladder infections but may not be able to report their symptoms. A home test for these children is done under the direction of your doctor.

How To Prepare

Equipment

Most home test kits for urinary tract infections (UTIs) were originally designed for use in a health professional's office or lab. Some pharmacies stock these test kits or can order them for you without a prescription. Many types of home test kits can be ordered over the Internet.

A UTI test kit usually contains a clean collection cup, special plastic dipsticks, and instructions that explain how to perform the test. You will also need wipes or towelettes (to clean your genital area before collecting a urine sample) and a clock that measures time in seconds.

General instructions

For any home test, you should follow some general guidelines:

  • Check the expiration date on the package and do not use a test kit after its expiration date. The chemicals in the kit may not work properly after that date.
  • Store the test kits as directed. Many kits need to be stored in a refrigerator or other cool place.
  • Read the instructions that come with your test carefully and thoroughly before doing the test. Look for any special preparations you need to take before you take the test, such as avoiding certain foods or limiting your physical activity.
  • Follow the directions exactly. Do all the steps, in order, without skipping any of them.
  • If a step in the test needs to be timed, use a clock. Do not guess at the timing because this could change your results.
  • If you are color-blind or have trouble telling one color from another, have someone else read the test results for you. Most test results depend on being able to see color changes on a test strip.
  • Write down the results of the test so you can talk to your doctor about them.

How It Is Done

Do not urinate for at least 4 hours before testing. A first morning urine sample (that has collected in the bladder overnight) provides the most accurate test results.

Test the urine within 15 minutes of collecting the urine sample, or place the dipstick in the urine stream as you are urinating.

Use a clean-catch midstream urine sample for testing:

  • Wash your hands to make sure they are clean before collecting the urine.
  • If the collection container has a lid, remove it carefully and set it down with the inner surface up. Avoid touching the inside of the container with your fingers.
  • Clean the area around your genitals.
    • A man should retract the foreskin, if present, and clean the head of his penis thoroughly with medicated towelettes, wipes, or swabs.
    • A woman should spread open the folds of skin around her vagina with one hand, then use her other hand to clean the area around her vagina and urethra thoroughly with medicated towelettes or swabs. She should wipe the area from front to back to avoid contaminating the urethra with bacteria from the anus.
  • Begin urinating into the toilet or urinal. A woman should continue to hold apart the folds of skin around the vagina while she urinates.
  • After the urine has flowed for several seconds, place the collection container into the stream and collect 45 mL (3 Tbsp) to 60 mL (4 Tbsp) of this "midstream" urine without interrupting the flow.
  • Avoid touching the rim of the container to your genital area, and avoid getting toilet paper, pubic hair, stool (feces), menstrual blood, or other foreign matter in the urine sample.

Test the urine sample according to the directions included in the test kit package.

How It Feels

There is no pain while collecting a urine sample. If you have pain or burning when you urinate, tell your doctor immediately.

Risks

There is no chance for problems while collecting a urine sample. If your symptoms continue or if your home test is positive and you do not follow up with your doctor, you may increase your chances of complications from a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Results

You can buy dipstick test kits without a doctor's order (nonprescription) to check for urinary tract infections (UTIs) at home. Results are ready right away.

Home test for urinary tract infections
Normal:

Nitrite dipstick test:

No nitrite is found in the urine. Normal results are called negative.

Leukocyte dipstick test:

No white blood cells (leukocytes) are found in the urine. Normal results are called negative.

Abnormal:

Nitrite dipstick test:

Nitrite is found in the urine. These results are called positive.

Leukocyte dipstick test:

White blood cells (leukocytes) are found in the urine. These results are called positive.

Call your doctor if the test result is positive.

What Affects the Test

There may be reasons you are not able to have this test or reasons why the results may not be helpful. One of the main reasons results may not be helpful is that the urine tested was not in your bladder for at least 4 hours before collecting the test sample.

What To Think About

  • A home test for a urinary tract infection (UTI) should be done under the direction of your doctor, so that abnormal test results caused by a problem other than a UTI will not be missed. Although a home test kit may detect the presence of a UTI, it can't provide information about the location of the infection. The infection may be in the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra, or, in men, in the prostate gland. More tests may be needed to determine the location and cause.
  • Positive test results do not always mean that you have an infection. If you have a positive test result, be sure to talk to your doctor. If you have symptoms of a urinary tract infection but your self-test is negative, contact your doctor for an evaluation.
  • Home test kits are not 100% accurate. If you continue to have symptoms of a urinary tract infection even though the test results show you do not have an infection (negative result), tell your doctor. Painful urination can be caused by other problems, such as a vaginal yeast infection or sexually transmitted infection. Frequent urinary tract infections can be a symptom of a serious problem, such as kidney stones, a tumor, or infection of the prostate gland. Do not use a home test as a substitute for regular medical checkups.
  • Some doctors may order another UTI test through a laboratory before prescribing antibiotics to treat an infection found using a home test kit.
  • Do not use medicine left over from treating another infection to treat a new UTI. Also, if your doctor has given you antibiotics for a UTI, be sure to take all of the antibiotics in your prescription, even if your symptoms go away before the prescription is gone. A UTI can return or get worse if you do not take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Many types of home test kits can be ordered over the Internet. If you have access to the Internet, you can find this information by searching for the type of test or the name of the manufacturer.
  • Some home test kits may come with cranberry or blueberry capsules or other medicine for use after the test. Any medicines that are included in your kit are not a substitute for follow-up with your doctor.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Avery L. Seifert, MD - Urology
Last Revised June 29, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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