The identification of bacteria in the urine from a properly collected urine sample when a person does not have symptoms of a bladder infection is called asymptomatic bacteriuria. Recall, symptoms of a bladder infection include pain with urination, increased frequency and urgency of urination and or blood in the urine. Asymptomatic bacteria which refer to bacterial colonization of the bladder is frequently seen in people who are elderly or who use catheters to empty their bladder. In many people, colonization occurs without any explanation, but this is usually not a worrisome issue. Bacteria in the urine is treated when you have symptoms of a urinary tract infection, are pregnancy or undergoing a surgical procedure on the urinary tract.
Does the smell of my urine indicate an infection?
Urine is made up of mostly ammonia and water. Ammonia is made when the body breaks down waste products from foods, so the smell is often unpleasant. People with asymptomatic bacteriuria often report a strong odor to their urine, but in the absence of urinary symptoms this is typically of no consequence. There are many factors which influence the smell of the urine besides bacterial colonization, including:
- Foods like asparagus, fish, garlic, onions
- Vitamin D or Vitamin B
- Certain sulfur containing antibiotics used to treat infections, or medications for diabetes
- Vaginal infections like yeast infections or sexually transmitted infections
- Dehydration, if your urine is very concentrated due to dehydration then drinking more water dilutes the ammonia in your urine reducing the unpleasant odor
- Diabetes Mellitus, increased sugar in the urine makes it smell sweeter
Bacteria in the urine comes and goes
Though antibiotics can be used to treat bacteria in the urine, colonization usually returns once medications are discontinued. Therefore, attempts to eradicate asymptomatic bacteriuria is an exercise in futility. Certain health foods like cranberry tablets, Vitamin C or D- Mannose are helpful for reducing bacterial growth in your bladder but will not eradicate all bacterial colonization in your urine. Since the level of bacterial colonization may fluctuate in people with asymptomatic bacteriuria there is no need to regularly check the urine unless you have symptoms of a bladder infection.
In summary, if bacteria are identified on your urine sample first consider if you have symptoms of a urinary tract infection, if the answer is no and you are not pregnant then treatment is rarely necessary. Though this finding may seem troublesome, it is not a harmful problem.
I am board certified in Obsetrics and Gynecology (OBGYN) and Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery (FPMRS). I currently serve as the Medical Director of Female Pelvic Medicine for the Crozer Health Medical Group in the greater Philadelphia area. I obtained my residency training in OBGYN at the Los Angeles County+ University of Southern California Medical Center and fellowship training in FPMRS at Johns Hopkins. I am passionate about the field of Women’s Health and the treatment of pelvic floor disorders like urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.