Diagnosis

How do health care professionals diagnose a bladder infection?

Health care professionals use your medical history, a physical exam, and tests to diagnose a bladder infection.

A health care professional will ask if you have a history of health conditions that make you more likely to develop any type of UTI. During a physical exam, the health care professional will ask you about your symptoms.

A woman sits on an examining table and talks to a health care professional.
Health care professionals use your medical history, a physical exam, and tests to diagnose a bladder infection.

Which tests do health care professionals use to diagnose a bladder infection?

Health care professionals typically test a sample of your urine to diagnose a bladder infection. In rare cases, a health care professional may also order another test to look at your urinary tract.

Lab tests

Urinalysis. You will collect a urine sample in a special container at a doctor’s office or at a lab. A health care professional will test the sample for bacteria and white blood cells, which the body produces to fight infection. Bacteria also can be found in the urine of healthy people, so a bladder infection is diagnosed based both on your symptoms and lab tests.

Urine culture. In some cases, a health care professional may culture your urine to find out what type of bacteria is causing the infection. Urine culture is not required in every case, but is important in certain circumstances, such as having repeated UTIs or certain medical conditions. The results of a urine culture take about 2 days to return and will help your health care professional determine the best treatment for you.

Imaging and other tests

If you have repeated bladder infections or have a complicated infection, a doctor may order imaging tests to look at your urinary tract. A complicated UTI is an infection linked to certain other conditions, such as a kidney stone, or a structural problem in your urinary tract. Read more about imaging tests for your urinary tract.

Doctors may use cystoscopy to look inside the urethra and bladder. Doctors use a cystoscope, a tube-like instrument, during cystoscopy to look for swelling, redness, and other signs of infection in addition to structural problems that may be causing the infection.

Doctors may also use urodynamic testing, which is any procedure that shows how well your bladder, sphincters, and urethra are storing and releasing urine.

March 2017
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Ann E. Stapleton, MD, FIDSA, FACP, University of Washington School of Medicine