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What are the Different Types of Bladder Infection Tests?

Article Details
  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 June 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Bladder infections are common in adults and infants, and tend to affect women more than men. A bladder infection is characterized by increased frequency of urination, and urgent or uncontrollable need to urinate, the presence of dark yellow urine, and pain, discomfort, or hypersensitivity in the bladder area. There are several different types of bladder infection tests that can help patients and doctors determine if an infection exists.

Home bladder infection tests are usually the first step to identifying an infection. Over the counter tests usually include a small paper strip on which two test pads are located. To use a home bladder test, a person must begin to urinate as usual, then hold the testing strip in the urine stream for about five seconds. The strip can then be set down with the test pads facing up while the sample matures. Within a few minutes, the test pads will change color if an infection is detected. Many home bladder tests have two pads, one that tests for nitrates while the other tests for white blood cells in the urine. A color change on either pad can indicate a bladder infection.

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Doctors may also employ similar bladder infection tests to make a preliminary diagnosis. In the doctor's office, patients are usually required to give a clean catch sample, which reduces the chances of contamination. In order to take a clean catch sample, the patient may be directed to wipe the genital area with an alcohol swab before urinating, and to wait at least five seconds before urinating into a specimen cup. The doctor may then use the same type of testing stick on the sample, dipping the test swab into the specimen for few seconds.

In some basic doctor's offices where testing strips are not available, a doctor may make a preliminary diagnosis simply by examining the color of the urine. Since bladder infections tend to make urine a very dark yellow, it may be easy to tell if one exists. This method is not always accurate, however, as some people attempt to cure or manage infections for several days by drinking lots of fluids, which can lighten the color of urine. If the doctor intends to send the sample for further bladder infection tests, however, the color test may be enough to prescribe medication to treat the infection while the exact diagnosis is being made at a testing laboratory.

If preliminary bladder infection tests suggest an positive diagnosis, a doctor may want to send the urine to be cultured. This involves taking a clean catch sample and sending it to a laboratory where any bacteria in the urine can be grown and examined. A urine culture can help identify the type of bacteria causing the infection, which can give clues to how the infection originated. Much of the time, bladder infections are the result of fecal bacteria being brushed into the urinary tract, but other sources of infection do exist. For people with recurring infections, an in-depth culture of a urine sample may be able to identify the underlying cause.

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