Leukocytes are white blood cells (WBC) that work with the immune system to defend against infectious disease. Damage to the kidneys, ureters, urethra or bladder can cause leukocytes to appear. They can also be triggered when foreign materials are found in the body. There are five types of leukocytes. If a high level of a particular type of leukocyte is found in elevated levels, this can be a sign of disease.
The body expels excess leukocytes when they have become damaged or killed fighting off an infection, causing them to be expelled in the urine. A small number of leukocytes will always be found in the urine as old cells are passed from the system. If a high number of leukocytes are found in the urine, this is a sign that there may be an infection in the urinary system. A consistent high level of leukocytes in the urine can also negatively affect the bladder or kidneys. Taking a test to check for leukocyte levels in the urine will help you determine if you need to see a doctor to treat your condition.
Symptoms of Leukocytes in Urine
Symptoms of leukocytes in the urine include cloudy or foul smelling urine. You may experience a painful sensation while urinating or more frequent urinating than usual. Fever, shivering, kidney inflammation, bladder tumor, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), or blood in the urine may also be experienced as symptoms of the infection.
A strip test can be used to check the leukocyte levels in the urine. Your doctor can prescribe a microscopic test to manually check the leukocyte levels. They can also perform a strip test which will note abnormalities in the leukocytes. Several home tests are available that will allow you to perform a basic leukocyte strip test. If this test registers an abnormality you can contact your doctor to have further testing done.
Causes of Leukocytes in Urine
Pregnancy can cause the WBC levels in the urine to increase, possibly as a result of contamination in the vagina. This can cause protein levels or leukocyte levels in the urine to increase. If these levels are consistently at a high rate or there are other side effects present, the patient should see a doctor to ensure that a bladder infection is not present.
Kidney infections will lead to an increased rate of leukocytes in the urine. These infections will typically start in the urinary tract and spread to the kidneys. Those with a weak immune system or those who frequently use a urinary catheter system are at a higher risk for developing a kidney infection that raises leukocyte levels in the urine. Bladder infections or inflammation of the urinary tract and ureters can also cause leukocytes to appear in the urine. Sexual intercourse can cause the transfer of bacteria that can cause an infection to form in the urinary tract. The act of committing sexual intercourse can rub these bacteria into the urethra, increasing this concern.
Holding urine for too long can weaken the bladder, making it difficult to empty your bladder completely. If leftover urine remains in the bladder for too long it can become infected with bacteria, leading to an increased level of leukocytes.
A blockage in the urinary tract can cause leukocytes to appear in the urine. This is often accompanied by blood in the urine. Trauma to the pelvis, a pelvis tumor, bladder or kidney stones, unwanted objects in the urinary tract or prostate hypertrophy can cause a blockage that damages the urinary system.
Treatment of Leukocytes in Urine
You will not treat the presence of leukocytes in the urine, but the infection which is causing them to appear. The treatment that is necessary will depend on the nature of the infection.
Clear infections - Your doctor will perform an examination and prescribe a round of antibiotics to clear up the infection. In extreme cases, hospitalization may be necessary to treat a kidney infection that is life threatening.
Personal hygiene - While attempting to clear an infection in the urinary system it is essential to practice high levels of cleanliness. Wash the genital area frequently with warm water and gentle soap, making a point of patting the area thoroughly dry afterward. Avoid sexual contact until you have cleared the infection. Wear clean underwear and change your underwear and towels every day to avoid spreading the bacteria further. Keep your hands away from the genital area and wash your hands after cleaning yourself or using the bathroom to avoid spreading the bacteria to others.
Proper diet - Eating a nutritious diet can help you prevent developing infections that lead to leukocytes in the building. Consuming cranberries and cranberry juice creates a lining in the urinary tract that makes it difficult for bacteria to adhere and grow. Avoid drinking cranberry juice that has high sugar content as this can lead to other health concerns. Drinking a mixture of water and baking soda can alter the pH in your urinary system which can help expel bacteria causing an infection. Consuming foods high in B and C vitamins can help you maintain a healthy immune system which will help you fight off infections more effectively.