Most of the time, your urine is sterile. This means there is no bacteria growing. On the other hand, if you have symptoms of a bladder or kidney infection, bacteria will be present and growing in your urine.
Sometimes, your health care provider may check your urine for bacteria even when you do not have any symptoms. If enough bacteria are found in your urine, you have asymptomatic bacteriuria.
Screening - asymptomatic bacteria
Asymptomatic bacteriuria occurs in a small number of healthy people. It affects women more often than men. The reasons for the lack of symptoms are not well understood.
You are more likely to have this problem if you:
There are no symptoms of this problem.
If you have these symptoms, you may have a urinary tract infection but you DO NOT have asymptomatic bacteriuria.
Exams and Tests
To diagnose asymptomatic bacteriuria, a urine sample must be sent for a urine culture. Most people with no urinary tract symptoms do not need this test.
You may need a urine culture done as a screening test even without symptoms if:
Most people who have bacteria growing in their urine, but no symptoms, do not need treatment. This is because the bacteria are not causing any harm. In fact, treating most people with this problem may make it harder to treat infections in the future.
However, for some people getting a urinary tract infection is more likely or may cause more severe problems. As a result, treatment with antibiotics may be needed if:
Without symptoms being present, even those who are older adults, have diabetes, or have a catheter in place, do not need treatment.
If it is not treated, you may have a kidney infection if you are at high risk.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if you have:
You will need to be checked for a bladder or kidney infection.
Dull RB, Friedman SK, Risoldi ZM, Rice EC, Starlin RC, Destache CJ. Antimicrobial treatment of asymptomatic bacteriuria in noncatheterized adults: a systematic review. Pharmacotherapy. 2014;34(9):941-960. PMID: 24807583 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24807583.
Schaeffer AJ, Matulewicz RS, Klumpp DJ. Infections of the urinary tract. In: Wein AJ, Kavoussi LR, Partin AW, Peters CA, eds. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 12.
Zalmanovici Trestioreanu A, Lador A, Sauerbrun-Cutler MT, Leibovici L. Antibiotics for asymptomatic bacteriuria. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;4:CD009534. PMID: 25851268 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25851268.
Review Date: 7/22/2016
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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