Approximately 12% of women report a bladder infection each year and 50% of women will have had a bladder infection by the age of 32.
The burning can be hell, so many women take Azo (also called Pyridium or phenazopyridine ), a medication that helps bladder pain. The problem? There is a medical myth that phenazopyridine affects the tests for a bladder infection.
Phenazopyridine turns urine orange. This color change can interfere with one component of an office test that some doctors may do to screen for a bladder infection: the urine dipstick.
A urine dipstick tests for bacteria (the nitrate component of the test) and white blood cells (the leukocyte esterase component). If a urine dipstick is positive for both nitrates and leukocyte esterase there is a 75% chance you have a bladder infection. The dipstick also tests for blood and some researchers think if this is positive the chance of a bladder infection is even greater.
Azo (I’m getting tired of typing out phenazopyridine) interferes with the leukocyte esterase part of the urine dipstick. It doesn’t interfere with the other tests: looking at the urine under the microscope (microscopy) or culturing the urine (growing the bacteria).
If you have classic bladder infection symptoms (burning when you pee and need to pee a lot more often) and don’t have vaginal discharge or vaginal irritation there is a 90% chance you have a bladder infection, which is more accurate than a urine dipstick.
As classic symptoms are more accurate than the dipstick then, well, in this situation the dipstick is pointless so who cares about the leukocyte esterase? If your symptoms aren’t classic the urine dipstick actually adds very little (75% accuracy is not stellar testing and if the dipstick is negative there is still an 18% chance you have an infection) and a more thorough evaluation is probably warranted. So, the dipstick is kind of pointless here as well.
All Azo does is make a bad test worse. As far as medical testing goes, it won’t affect a thing but it might help ease the pain while you get a hold of your doctor. And anyone who tells you that you can’t have your urine tested while taking Azo doesn’t understand testing for a bladder infection.
Remember, this post does not reflect individual medical advice.