Urine is produced by the kidneys as a waste byproduct of the blood filtration process. The kidneys absorb all the minerals and essential nutrients as well as remove water-soluble waste matter from the blood; the latter gets removed along with urine. The kidneys, along with the urethra, bladder, and ureters are a part of the urinary system.
Urine is typically sterile, i.e., it does not contain any traces of microorganisms like bacteria, etc. However, bacteria may sometimes enter the urinary system, multiply and grow rapidly. The pathogens may pass into the urinary tract via the bloodstream or through direct contact with the urethra during urination. The presence of bacteria in urine is called bacteriuria, and it is considered as one of the symptoms of a condition called urinary tract infection/UTI. The urine specimen of people with UTIs usually contains bacteria in urine to the tune of 100,000/mm.
The species of bacteria occurring in a sample of urine should be the same. If different types or species of bacteria are detected in a urine specimen, then it may possibly be contaminated. In such cases, doctors will usually order testing of a new urine sample to check for the presence of bacteria in urine and other underlying anomalies.
Bacteria in urine is usually treated with antibiotics and other medications. It is vital to treat UTIs and bacteriuria as untreated cases can progress to severe health complications.
A person with bacteria in urine will typically complain of a specific set of symptoms, including painful urination and burning sensations when passing urine. The doctor will then order for a battery of diagnostic tests, including urine tests such as a urinalysis as well as culture studies of the urine specimen in a lab. The results of all these tests, in addition to the visible signs and symptoms, will help ascertain the occurrence of bacteria in urine and other possible pre-existing problems.
Some of common signs and symptoms experienced by patients along with bacteria in urine are listed below:
- Bloody urine
- Elevated pressure on the bladder when passing urine
- An intense desire to urinate on a frequent basis
- Pain and burning sensations at the time of passing urine
- Foul smelling urine
In some cases, people may suffer from bacteria in urine but may not experience any visible symptoms. The elevated levels of bacteria in urine are typically detected during routine health tests. This form of bacterial presence in urine, without the occurrence of noticeable symptoms, is referred to as asymptomatic form of bacteriuria or bacteria in urine.
Asymptomatic cases of bacteria in urine generally do not cause any damage to the health of a person. However, pregnant women, individuals who have previously undergone a kidney transplant operation, and diabetics need to medically treat even this harmless form of bacteriuria.
Causes of bacteria in urine
Chlamydia, E. coli, Enterococcus faecalis,Lactobacillus, and Klebsiella pneumonia are the most common species of bacteria that infect the urine. A few common causes of bacteria in urine are listed below:
- Bacteria can travel from the gastrointestinal tract or the urethra and cause a UTI. Hence, people with poor personal hygiene are more vulnerable to suffering from bacteria in urine.
- The unusual genital anatomy of women makes them more susceptible to developing bacteria in urine than men. The urethral tube is quite short in women and it is located at close proximity to the anus and the vagina, which are usually home to varied bacteria and other pathogens. Hence, women are at greater risk to urinary tract infections.
- The positioning and location of the urinary tract alters during pregnancy. This can increase the risk to bacteria in urine. Expectant women are therefore recommended to regularly test for bacteria in urine, till the baby is delivered.
- In men, bacteria in urine is usually caused due to bladder infections that arise due to enlargement or inflammation of the prostate gland. Partial elimination of urine from bladder as well as blockage in normal urine flow, due to kidney stones or other urinary tract problems, are other common causes of UTI and bacteria in urine.
- UTI in children may cause vesicoureteral reflux, a disorder marked by backward flow of urine from bladder to ureters. This can then trigger a case of bacteria in urine.
- Other risk factors that increase the vulnerability to developing bacteria in urine are long-term use of bladder catheters and abstaining from urination or withholding urine in bladder for long periods of time.
Treatment of bacteria in urine
- Asymptomatic cases of bacteria in urine are not harmful and usually do not need any medical treatment. However, if it occurs in people with weakened immune systems or in expectant women, then a visit to a doctor for diagnosis and treatment is vital.
- Urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotics.
- Pain killers help alleviate pain.