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What Is Asymptomatic Bacteriuria?

Bacteriuria is often diagnosed through a urinalysis.
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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2014
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Asymptomatic bacteriuria is a common medical condition that refers to unusually high levels of bacteria in the bladder and urine. The condition is usually harmless, and it does not cause the painful, burning urination symptoms associated with urinary tract infections — in fact, it typically has no symptoms at all; doctors normally discover it during annual physical exams or testing for other illnesses. Most people who are diagnosed with asymptomatic bacteriuria do not need treatment, but pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems may be prescribed antibiotics to reduce the risk of complications.

People of any age and fitness level can develop asymptomatic bacteriuria, though doctors are unsure why bacteria levels suddenly spike. The condition is most likely to affect people whose immune systems are unable to eradicate bacteria sufficiently. Autoimmune diseases, immune system suppressing medications, and chronic illnesses can increase the risk of asymptomatic bacteriuria. Pregnant women are also at risk due to hormonal imbalances and hygiene issues. Other conditions that may lead to bacteriuria include kidney transplants, congenital urinary tract defects, and a history of chronic renal disorders.

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In most cases, asymptomatic bacteriuria is not likely to cause adverse health problems. A person may only be diagnosed with the condition after undergoing routine physical exams or diagnostic tests for other health issues. Pregnant patients are generally screened for asymptomatic bacteriuria and urinary tract infections during periodic checkups with their obstetricians. If an individual who is diagnosed with asymptomatic bacteriuria begins having painful urination, lower abdomen aches, and fevers, he or she should revisit the doctor to receive the proper medical care.

A doctor can diagnose bacteriuria by evaluating the laboratory results from urine sample tests. Samples are analyzed microscopically to detect bacteria, count white and red blood cells, nitrates, and protein. If only bacteria levels are high, bacteriuria is likely. The presence of elevated proteins and blood may suggest that a urinary tract infection has started to develop. In addition to laboratory studies, doctors usually perform diagnostic imaging scans or endoscopic tests to carefully inspect the kidneys, bladder, and urinary tract.

Bacteriuria is usually left untreated, and the amount of bacteria in the urine tends to level off after a few weeks or months. Treatment may be considered if a patient's immune system is very weak to lessen the chances of developing kidney or urinary tract infections. During pregnancy, oral antibiotics such as penicillin are usually given daily for about two weeks as a preventive measure. The outlook is generally very good with treatment, and most people do not have recurring bacteriuria episodes.

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