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asymptomatic bacteriuria

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Female pelvic organs

Male genitourinary system

Asymptomatic bacteruiria is the presence of bacteria in the urine, without any symptoms.

What is going on in the body? 
Urine is usually free of bacteria. But sometimes a person's own bacteria can enter the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. From the urethra, bacteria move into the bladder and infect the urine. A small number of bacteria in the urine often produces no symptoms and is called asymptomatic bacteriuria. A large amount of bacteria in the urine often causes symptoms and is called a urinary tract infection (UTI).

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition? 
There are no signs or symptoms.

What are the causes and risks of the condition? 
Bacteriuria can be caused by many conditions, including:
  • urine flowing backwards from the bladder to the ureter. The ureter is the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder. This backflow of urine is called vesicoureteral reflux.
  • a blockage somewhere in the urinary tract. The urinary tract consists of the kidney, ureter, bladder, and urethra.
  • incomplete emptying of the bladder during urination.
  • diabetes mellitus.
Bacteriuria is more common in women than men, however the frequency increases with age for both sexes.

What can be done to prevent the condition? 
To prevent this condition, a person should:
  • drink enough fluids to continually flush out the bladder
  • try to completely empty the bladder when urinating
  • wipe from front to back rather than back to front
How is the condition diagnosed? 
Since there are no symptoms, this type of bacteriuria is diagnosed by examination of the urine. A doctor may suspect this condition based on the results of urine analysis done in the office.

What are the long-term effects of the condition? 
For most people, there is no reason to treat the condition, since there are no symptoms and usually no long-term effects. But, there are a few exceptions:
  • Young children should be checked more thoroughly to determine what is causing the bacteria.
  • Pregnant women are at risk of developing serious infections with untreated bacteriuria.
  • Anyone with a urinary tract infection caused by certain types of bacteria is at risk of developing stones in the urinary tract. People with diabetes are especially at risk.
What are the risks to others? 
There are no risks to others. Bacteriuria cannot be spread to others.

What are the treatments for the condition? 
Most of the time there is no need to treat this condition. When treatment is needed, most doctors prescribe antibiotics such as trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole or nitrofurantoin, for simple urinary tract infections. In most cases, a three-day course of therapy is enough.

What are the side effects of the treatments? 
Antibiotics sometimes cause stomach upset or other reactions. A doctor can provide more information about possible reactions.

What happens after treatment for the condition? 
This condition is associated with few problems, except in the special cases noted above.

How is the condition monitored? 
The doctor may want to perform urine analysis in the future to see if the condition has resolved.

Author: Stuart Wolf, MD
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 11/1/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

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