The primary test is a mid-stream urinalysis. The genital area is thoroughly cleansed and a urine sample is taken after urine is allowed to flow for a moment or two. This is to prevent bacteria in the genital area from contaminating the sample. The urine is then placed in a culture that will encourage the growth of any bacteria that might be present. The cultured bacteria may then be tested against several antibiotics to determine which one might be most effective.

Infections that do not readily clear up with antibiotic treatment may require more extensive diagnostic testing. The physician may order an intravenous pyelogram, a procedure in which a dye is injected and allowed to flow through the urinary tract as x-rays are taken. Individuals with recurrent infections may be given an ultrasound exam in which external sound waves are bounced off internal organs to provide images. Cystoscopy may also be employed. A cystoscope is a thin tube with a light and lens at the tip that is inserted through the urethra to allow the physician to examine the bladder from the inside.

Infections in men often appear in conjunction with an obstruction such as a kidney stone or enlarged prostate. The diagnostic procedure is similar but treatment may be extended to prevent the infection from lodging in the prostate gland. Infections in the prostate (prostatitis) are challenging because antibiotics do not readily penetrate the gland’s tissues.