It is important to be able to identify symptoms that may be indicative of a urinary tract infection to aid in the early diagnosis and timely treatment of the condition.
The severity of the symptoms depends on whether it affects the upper or lower part of the urinary tract, the kidneys or the bladder respectively. Some specific populations, such as the very young and elderly have specific signs that can help to identify the infection.
Lower Urinary Tract (Bladder) Infection
An infection of the lower urinary tract is the most common type, as the bacteria enter through the urethra and travel up to reach the bladder where the infection initiates. This is also sometimes referred to as cystitis.
Characteristic symptoms of a bladder infection include:
- Frequent urination but passing small volumes each time
- Discolored urine, cloudy or bloody
- Strong odor from urine
- Pain or burning upon urination
- Cramping in lower abdominal region
- General feeling of being unwell
- Low fever
Infection of the lower urinary tract is relatively simple in terms of treatment and a standard course of antibiotics is usually sufficient. However, if the infection goes untreated, the bacteria may continue to travel upwards and spread to the kidneys in the upper urinary tract.
Upper Urinary Tract (Kidney) Infection
The symptoms of urinary tract infection are usually more severe when the kidneys are involved, which is also known as pyelonephritis. In addition to the symptoms associated with the bladder infection, symptoms may include:
- High fever
- Chills, shaking and night sweats
- Pain in the side, back of groin
- Confusion and mental state changes
- Nausea and vomiting
Infants and young children tend to be affected by more serious urinary tract infections and it is, therefore, important that parents are able to recognize early signs to seek medical help in a timely manner. This can help to prevent possible complications.
Signs of a urinary tract infection may include:
- Persistent high fever without known cause
- Problems feeding
- Signs of weakness
- Foul smelling urine that is cloudy in color
- Frequent urination marked by bedwetting or poor daytime urine control
It is often difficult to recognize when an elderly person has a urinary tract infection, as they may not be able to communicate early symptoms effectively.
In some cases, the first indicative sign of a urinary tract in an elderly person is the confusion and change in mental state associated with a severe upper urinary tract infection.