Leukocytes in Urine: What You Should Know (2023)

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High levels of leukocytes in your urine may indicate you have a condition such as a urinary tract infection (UTI), kidney stones, or pelvic tumor. Risk factors include pregnancy and a compromised immune system.

(Video) Leukocytes in Urine - No Nitrates

What are leukocytes?

A complete blood cell (CBC) test often includes a measurement of the level of leukocytes, or white blood cells (WBCs). Higher levels of leukocytes in the bloodstream may indicate an infection. This is because WBCs are part of the immune system, and they help fight off disease and infection.

Leukocytes may also be found in a urinalysis, or a urine test. High levels of WBCs in your urine also suggest that you have an infection. In this case, your body is trying to fight off an infection somewhere in your urinary tract. Usually, that means the bladder or the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine from the bladder. Leukocytes in the urine could also suggest a kidney infection.

Infections or obstruction in the urinary tract or bladder may cause you to have an increased amount of leukocytes in your urine.

Infections may be more severe if you’re pregnant, which increases the odds of developing problems such as urinary tract infections (UTIs). If you’re pregnant and have an infection in your urinary tract, it’s important to receive treatment because it could complicate your pregnancy.

You’re at risk for developing a bacterial infection in your bladder if you hold your urine too long before relieving yourself. Repeatedly holding in urine can stretch the bladder too much. Over time, that makes your bladder less likely to empty fully when you go to the bathroom. When urine remains in the bladder, it raises the chances that bacteria will increase in number, which may lead to a bladder infection. Uncomplicated cystitis is another name for a urinary infection that’s limited to the bladder in healthy people who aren’t pregnant.

Kidney stones, a tumor in the pelvis, or some other type of blockage in the urinary tract may also cause more leukocytes to appear.


(Video) Leukocyte Esterase Urine Test | Leukocytes In Urine | Causes & Symptoms Of High Leukocytes In Urine

Leukocytes in urine don’t necessarily cause symptoms on their own. If you do have leukocytes in your urine, your symptoms will vary depending on the condition that is causing the leukocytes to build up in your urine.

The symptoms of a UTI include:

  • a frequent urge to urinate
  • a burning sensation when urinating
  • cloudy or pink-tinted urine
  • strong smelling urine
  • pelvic pain, especially in women

Obstructions in the urinary tract can cause a range of symptoms depending on the location and type of obstruction. In most cases, the main symptom is pain on one or both sides of the abdomen. Kidney stones may cause similar symptoms as a UTI but may also include nausea, vomiting, and intense pain.

Women tend to be a greater risk for urinary tract infections, and, therefore, more likely to have leukocytes in their urine. Pregnant women have an even higher risk. Men can develop these infections, too. Having an enlarged prostate, for example, raises the risk of UTIs in men.

Anyone who has a compromised immune system may also be at higher risk for any type of infection.

If you’re healthy, you can still have elevated leukocytes in your bloodstream and urine. A normal range in the bloodstream is between 4,500-11,000 WBCs per microliter. A normal range in the urine is lower than in the blood, and may be from 0-5 WBCs per high power field (wbc/hpf).

If your doctor suspects you have a UTI, they’ll likely ask you to provide a urine sample. They’ll test the urine sample for:

(Video) Urinalysis Explained

  • WBCs
  • red blood cells
  • bacteria
  • other substances

You’re bound to have a few WBCs in your urine even when you’re healthy, but if a urine test identifies levels above 5 wbc/hpf, it’s likely you have an infection. If bacteria are detected, your doctor may perform a urine culture to diagnose the type of bacterial infection you have.

A urine test can also aid in the diagnosis of kidney stones. An X-ray or CT scan can help your doctor see the stones.

Your treatment will depend on the cause of your elevated leukocyte levels in your urine.

Treatment for urinary tract infections

If you’re diagnosed with any type of bacterial infection, your doctor will most likely advise you to take antibiotics. If this is the first time you’ve had a UTI or if you get UTIs infrequently, then a short-term course of antibiotics is appropriate.

If you get recurrent UTIs, your doctor may prescribe a longer course of antibiotics and further testing to see if there are specific reasons for repeat infections. For women, taking an antibiotic after sexual intercourse may be helpful, but you should only take prescription medications as recommended by your doctor.

In addition to antibiotics, increasing your fluid intake can help flush out a UTI. Drinking more water may seem unappealing if urinating is painful, but it can help speed up the healing process.


If an obstruction, such as a tumor or kidney stone, is causing the high leukocyte levels, you may need a surgical procedure.

If you have small kidney stones, increasing the amount of water you drink can help flush them out of your system. Passing stones is often painful.

Sometimes, larger stones are broken up using sound waves. Surgery may also be necessary to remove large kidney stones.

If the blockage occurs due to a tumor, treatment options may also include surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.

(Video) Leukocytosis, Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment.

If diagnosed early and treated thoroughly, UTIs usually clear up in a short amount of time. Kidney stones are also treatable. Benign tumors or other growths in the urinary tract may also be treated, but they may require surgery and recovery time.

Cancerous growths may require longer-term treatment, as well as monitoring to watch for the spread of cancer to other parts of the body.

One of the easiest ways to help keep your urinary tract free of infections or kidney stones is to stay hydrated. Drink several glasses of water per day, but talk with your doctor about what amount of water is best for you. If you’re frail or you have a condition such as heart failure, your doctor may recommend that you limit your fluid intake. If you’re active or pregnant, you may need to drink more water every day.

Eating cranberries and drinking cranberry juice may help lower your risk of developing UTIs. That is because a substance in cranberries may help protect your bladder and make it more difficult for certain bacteria to stick to your urinary tract.

Learn more: 7 Best remedies for bladder infection »

Tell your doctor if you notice anything unusual about your urine, such as its color, smell, or any discomfort you experience while urinating. Don’t wait. A urinary tract infection that starts in the urethra can spread to the bladder and kidneys, which makes the problem much more serious and can lead to complications.


What you should know about leukocytes in urine? ›

Leukocyte esterase is a screening test used to detect a substance that suggests there are white blood cells in the urine. This may mean you have a urinary tract infection . If this test is positive, the urine should be examined under a microscope for white blood cells and other signs that point to an infection.

What is the most common cause of the leukocytes presence in the urine? ›

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

An infection in your urinary tract is the most likely cause of leukocytes in your urine. Any time you have an infection, your immune system ramps up production of these cells to fight off the bacteria.

Can you have leukocytes in urine without infection? ›

A few white blood cells are normally present in urine and are generally not a cause of concern as they may not indicate an infection. High levels of WBCs in the urine typically suggest inflammation or infection. This occurs when the body tries to fight off an infection, typically in the urinary tract.

How many leukocytes in urine is abnormal? ›

The reference range for white blood cells (leukocytes) in urine is as follows: Normal 0 to 10 leukocytes/μL. Borderline 10 to 20 leukocytes/μL. Pathological greater than 20 leukocytes/μL.

How can I get rid of leukocytes in my urine naturally? ›

Drink parsley water: It is a natural diuretic and can help flush out your system. Consume more blueberries: They contain ingredients that can work to prevent and treat UTIs. Consume diluted apple cider vinegar: It is a natural antibacterial, so it can help fight off bacteria in the urinary system.

What happens when you have high leukocytes? ›

Produced in your bone marrow, they defend your body against infections and disease. But, when there are too many white blood cells, it usually means you have infection or inflammation in your body. Less commonly, a high white blood cell count could indicate certain blood cancers or bone marrow disorders.

What kind of infections cause leukocytes in urine? ›

High levels of leukocytes in your urine may indicate you have a condition such as a urinary tract infection (UTI), kidney stones, or pelvic tumor. Risk factors include pregnancy and a compromised immune system.

Why do I have leukocytes in my urine but no UTI? ›

Certain medications (antibiotics, aspirin, corticosteroids, diuretics) may cause the appearance of leukocytes in the urine (in this case, eosinophils). Cancer. Some tumors such as bladder, prostate or kidney tumors can generate leukocytes in the urine. These situations cause the immune system to weaken.

What disease causes high leukocytes? ›

  • Allergy, especially severe allergic reactions.
  • Asthma.
  • Bacterial, viral, fungal or parasitic infections.
  • Burns.
  • Churg-Strauss syndrome.
  • Medicines, such as corticosteroids and epinephrine.
  • Hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
  • Leukemia.

Does leukocytes in urine mean kidney infection? ›

If leukocytes in urine are found this can be an indication of Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). To be certain it is recommended at this stage to visit your Doctor to confirm a diagnosis and receive treatment. An untreated UTI can be very painful and with very advanced infections cause permanent damage to the Kidney.

Can stress cause leukocytes in urine? ›

We concluded from the above study that percentage of normal individuals having leukocytes in their urine is greater than happy individuals. So, there is a connection between normal individuals and anxiety level.

What can cause false leukocytes in urine? ›

[19] Hematuria can cause a false positive result for urine WBCs. Leukocytes and WBCs may be present in urine due to other conditions such as appendicitis, diverticulitis, sexually transmitted infection, and renal injury.

How many leukocytes indicate infection? ›

Normally the total WBC count for an adult ranges from 5,000 to 10,000/mm 3. Leukocytosis (WBC > 10,000/mm 3) can indicate infection, inflammation (possibly from allergies), tissue damage or burns, dehydration, thyroid storm, leukemia, stress, or steroid use.

What is normal range for leukocytes? ›

Normal Results

The normal number of WBCs in the blood is 4,500 to 11,000 WBCs per microliter (4.5 to 11.0 × 109/L). Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different labs.

What do you do if you test positive for leukocytes? ›

Treatment for leukocytes in the urine depends on the cause and if there is an infection. For some conditions, such as a bacterial UTI, antibiotic therapy will clear up the infection relatively quickly. For more severe infections or those that will not resolve easily, more in-depth medical treatment may be needed.

How do I make my leukocytes go away? ›

Avoid foods rich in sugar, fat and salt.

You can replace them with any food that lowers inflammation to reduce white blood cell count, like grapes, garlic, spices, nuts, soy protein, vinegar, and black and green teas.

What foods increase leukocytes? ›

Our bodies use materials from the protein we eat to make new WBCs. Some sources of quality protein are fish, eggs, poultry, beef, milk, Greek yogurt and beans. If your diet is poor, or you're having trouble eating, you can take a multivitamin or supplement with vitamin B12 and folate.

Should I worry about high leukocytes? ›

On its own, leukocytosis is usually not harmful. An abnormally raised white blood cell count is not a disease condition, but can point to another underlying cause such as infection, cancer or autoimmune disorders. An abnormally high white blood cell count should always be considered for its possible causes.

Can stress cause high leukocytes? ›

Stress levels increase white blood cell count

This indicates a connection between elevated stress levels and the body's production of what are known as inflammatory leukocytes, a particular variety of white blood cell. Normally, inflammatory leukocytes are the body's defense system against infection and disease.

What antibiotic treats leukocytes in urine? ›

Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) or levofloxacin (Levaquin)

These types of antibiotics work slightly better than amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate, cefdinir, and cephalexin. But the risk of serious side effects is higher. Healthcare providers usually save these antibiotics for more complicated or severe types of UTIs.

What does high leukocytes in urine mean? ›

Leukocyte esterase is a screening test used to detect a substance that suggests there are white blood cells in the urine. This may mean you have a urinary tract infection. If this test is positive, the urine should be examined under a microscope for white blood cells and other signs that point to an infection.

What does it mean if you have leukocytes in your urine but not nitrates? ›

Leukocytes in the urine without nitrite

If the test for leukocyte esterase is positive but finds no nitrite, an infection may still be present. The test is particular to certain bacterial enzymes, which means it can pick up specific bacterial infections with more certainty.


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