What is a Urinary Tract Infection? UTIs or Urinary tract infections are caused by microbes such as bacteria overcoming the body’s defenses in the urinary tract. They can affect our kidneys, bladder, and the tubes that run between them. They are one of the most common types of infection and account for around 8.1 million visits to a doctor every year.
The urinary tract can be divided into the upper urinary tract and the lower urinary tract. The upper urinary tract consists of the kidneys and the ureters, and the lower urinary tract consists of the bladder and the urethra.
Most UTIs are not serious, but some can lead to serious problems, particularly with upper UTIs.
Recurrent or long-lasting kidney problems or infections can cause permanent damage, and some sudden kidney infections can be life-threatening, particularly if bacteria enter the bloodstream in a condition known as septicemia. They can also increase the risk of women delivering infants that are premature or have a low birth weight.
Urinary tract infections don't always cause signs and symptoms, but when they do they may include:
- A strong, persistent urge to urinate
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
- Urine that appears cloudy
- Urine that appears red, bright pink or cola-colored — a sign of blood in the urine
- Strong-smelling urine
- Pelvic pain, in women — especially in the center of the pelvis and around the area of the pubic bone
If you have these symptoms and want to find out if it is caused by UTI or you simply want to do self-monitoring, a home test kit or Urinalysis Test Strips can help you find out faster. There are several sold in your nearest drug stores or you can always order online.
How To use Urinalysis Test Strips?
These test strips are very practical and easy to use. You wet a test strip by holding it in your urine stream for a few seconds. Or, you can collect urine in a clean cup and dip the strip into the sample. Wait 1 to 2 minutes for the color of the test strip to change. This will vary depending on the brand you use. Check the color chart on the home test kit to find out if you’ve tested positive for a UTI.
10 Parameter Urine Test Strips Color Chart:
Analyzing an individual’s urine can be a useful way of detecting or ruling out some diseases and infections. To be effective, the test must be performed properly and the results interpreted correctly
A typical 10 parameter urine test strip (dipstick) is lined with 10 different reagent test pads that change color in response to the chemical characteristics of the urine and can help in your regular health checks as well as detection of a broad spectrum of abnormalities. This is the same kind of test medical professionals use to assist in diagnosis. What is great about these home-use urinalysis strips is that it enables you to monitor your health from the convenience of your home without going to a medical professional for a urinalysis test every time you think you have some issue, which can be very expensive and time consuming.
Significance of findings
- Blood - Urine does not normally contain blood detected by reagent strips. Blood in the urine is known as hematuria and can be sub classified as follows:
Macroscopic: large volumes of blood in the urine, which takes on a rose or dark color, especially if left to stand;
Microscopic: undetectable to the naked eye; reagent strips or a microscope are needed to identify it.
Blood can enter urine via damage to the filtration barrier in the kidneys that normally prevents blood from entering the urine or because of an abnormality to the structures that usually drain urine from the kidneys, store urine (bladder) or transport urine outside (urethra) (Bryant and Catto, 2008). Blood in the urine can be indicative of kidney disease; inflammatory lesions of the urinary tract (infection or cancer); renal damage; or kidney/renal stones.
- Bilirubin and urobilinogen - Bilirubin is a chemical produced when red blood cells are broken down. It is transported in the blood to the liver, where it is processed and excreted into the gut as a constituent of bile. In the gut, bacteria acts on the bilirubin to transform it into urobiligen. It is usual for urine to contain urobiligen but not bilirubin. Bilirubin in the urine may be an indicator of a breakdown of red blood cells. It may not be effectively removed by the liver, which may suggest liver problems or a problem with drainage of bile into the gut, such as gall stones.
- Nitrites - Nitrites are not usually found in urine and are associated with the presence of bacteria that can convert nitrate into nitrite. The presence of nitrites can be suggestive of a UTI but clinical presentation of symptoms should also be taken into account. The absence of nitrites, however, does not always rule out the presence of a UTI; Devillé et al (2004) identified that in approximately 50% of urine samples containing bacteria, the nitrites test was negative.
- Leucocytes (white blood cells) - In urine, leucocytes are usually associated with a urinary infection but sometimes may indicate a more severe renal problem (Steggall, 2007). When white blood cells are present in the urine, patients are said to have pyuria (pus in the urine). To establish the cause, a clean-catch urine sample should be examined under a microscope, cultured to see what bacteria grows and tested for sensitivity to establish antibiotic treatment. Where no bacterial cells are detected, the patient is said to have sterile pyuria; this can occur in tuberculosis and inflammatory disease of the kidneys (Higgins, 2007).
- Protein - In a healthy person, urine does not contain a level of protein that is detectable on a urine reagent strip. This is due to the protein molecules being too large to pass through the glomerular filtration barrier. When protein can pass through this barrier, it is known as proteinuria.
- Ketones - These are chemicals that are formed during the abnormal breakdown of fat and are not normal constituents of urine. Breakdown of fat may result from prolonged vomiting, fasting or starvation; individuals on a diet or who present with diarrhea and vomiting may have a positive result. Ketones can also be present in the urine of people with poorly controlled diabetes. This can make the blood more acidic and is known as diabetic ketoacidosis; it should be reviewed urgently by a doctor.
- Glucose - Glucose in the urine (glycosuria) can occur in pregnancy or patients taking corticosteroids. It may also be indicative of diabetes mellitus but is not a normal constituent of urine.
- pH - This is a measure of acidity or alkalinity in urine. All urine will give a pH reading on analysis and it is usually slightly acidic. A range of 5.0-8.0 is considered normal (Higgins, 2007). Acidic urine may indicate formation of urinary stones, while alkaline urine may indicate a UTI with certain types of bacteria.
- Specific gravity (SG) (relative density) - Urine can range from very diluted to very concentrated; its density is measured against pure water at room temperature and pressure. Specific gravity identifies the hydration of an individual – a well-hydrated person will have diluted urine whereas someone who is dehydrated will present with concentrated urine. The normal range of specific gravity is 1.001-1.035.
Note that it is still best to consult with a medical practitioner for a dependable interpretation of results.
Urinary Tract Infection Prevention
There are several things a person can do to prevent contracting a urinary tract infection:
- Stay hydrated
- Urinate after sexual intercourse
- Avoid using spermicide
- Wear cotton underwear
- Wipe front to back
- Decrease caffeine intake
- Decrease alcohol intake
- Use menstrual cups, sanitary pads, or period-proof underwear
Urinary Tract Infection Diagnosis & Treatment
There are simple home remedies to clear out the urinary tract, such as drinking a lot of water, increasing intake of Vitamin C, and taking a cranberry supplement. If you prefer juice to vitamins, make sure to purchase pure cranberry juice, since the alternative contains a high sugar content which can worsen the condition.
If the infection patient has developed cystitis or a kidney infection, the medical provider will prescribe antibiotics. In the most severe of cases, treatment could last up to several weeks.
UTIs are quite common especially in women. If not treated immediately, they can be life-threatening especially when the bacteria enter the bloodstream. Thus, it helps a lot to self-monitor especially when one or two of the mentioned symptoms appear. Urinalysis using a dipstick reagent strip is an effective screening tool to assess the health status of an individual and detect some diseases and infections. They also assist in diagnosis and monitoring of many metabolic or systemic diseases that can go unnoticed because they haven’t produced striking signs or symptoms yet. However, as always, it is best to consult a medical practitioner.