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.
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