Self-diagnosis of urinary tract infections is a tricky business. Some of the common symptoms – ranging from painful urination to severe back pain – often accompany other conditions. An STD (sexually transmitted disease) may be the root cause, or the back pain may be the product of a pinched nerve. Misdiagnosis is all too common. The only way to be sure is to have a urinalysis performed.
Fortunately, that is simple and painless. Some home tests can give you a first clue. Similar to some home pregnancy tests, you urinate on a small stick layered with a chemical reagent. The reagent reacts to display a color, or other indicator. But follow up with a professional exam is important if you feel any pain.
Often, physicians recommend simply bringing in a urine sample collected at home. Select or produce a sterile jar (via boiling, alcohol soaking or pre-packaged) and collect a few ounces of ‘mid-stream’ urine. That is urine that is NOT produced in the first couple of seconds, but liquid expelled later. That reduces the odds of any contaminants throwing off the results.
The urinalysis performed on the sample will look for the presence of pus, red blood cells, and most particularly any bacteria, such as excess amounts of E. coli.
Treatments for urinary tract infections run a wide gamut, reflecting the different types and severity of the condition.
In some cases, the best treatment is no treatment at all. Simply allow the immune system to do its job. If symptoms don’t disappear in 2-3 days, other actions are called for. Sometimes, drinking lots of fluids will clear the condition. But those fluids should NOT be alcohol, coffee, or sugary soft drinks. Water is usually best, though cranberry juice is a traditional home remedy. The latter is not recommended for those on blood thinning drugs, such as warfarin.
If symptoms persist, antibiotics are the next line of defense. Some courses of treatment use a low-dosage regimen of Cipro or Amoxicillin (a cousin of the more well-known penicillin). A sulfa drug such as Bactrim (Sulfamethoxazole trimethoprim) is sometimes prescribed.
The symptoms usually disappear as the infection is cleared within a few days. For more serious infections, or those that have been left untreated longer, it may take a week to 10 days.
Some upper UTIs (urinary tract infections) that reach the kidneys can be very serious. Apart from stronger drugs or higher dosages of Furadantin, Macrodantin, or Levaquin, pain medication is usually essential.
Kidney infections typically produce pronounced back pain because of their location near the spine, just above the small of the back. An analgesic – aspirin, or more specialized drugs – is usually prescribed. Some produce blue or orange urine, so discuss this with your physician to head off panic at the unusual color.