It’s important to understand what causes leukocytes in urine. Leukocyte is another name for a white blood cell (WBC). These cells are part of the immune system, which works to protect the body against foreign invaders and infectious diseases.
There are five types of leukocytes: basophils, eosinophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, and neutrophils. It’s normal to find some white blood cells in urine during a microscopic analysis of the urine (urinalysis); the normal range is 0 to 5 WBC/HPF.
However, higher levels of leukocytes in urine without nitrates could indicate the presence of a disease or infection—it could be a urinary tract infection, or kidney stones, hypertension, diabetes, or other kidney diseases. It could also indicate damage to the bladder, urethra, ureters, and kidneys.
What Causes Leukocytes in Urine?
As mentioned, white blood cells in urine will indicate the presence of certain conditions. The following is a detailed explanation of the possible diseases associated with leukocytes in urine.
Bladder Infections or Irritation: A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common cause of leukocytes in urine, as is bladder irritation (or cystitis). The condition is more common in women, and it is thought that 10% to 20% of all women have at least one UTI every year. High levels of bacteria and WBC is considered a telling sign of infection or irritation. Interstitial cystitis is a frequent bladder irritation that is not caused by an infection. It is also called painful bladder syndrome. High white blood cell levels in the urine will also be present in interstitial cystitis.
Kidney Stones: A higher-than-normal count ofwhite blood cells in urine are also a sign of kidney stones. Most kidney stones contain calcium salts, and they interfere with the urine pathway in the urethra, leading to bacterial infection.
Kidney Infection: A kidney infection (pyelonephritis) can lead to higher rates of white blood cells in urine. Symptoms associated with kidney infections include nausea, vomiting, fever, fatigue, and severe pain. Pyelonephritis begins in the urinary tract and spreads to the kidneys.
Pregnancy: The presence of leukocytes in urine while pregnant is common. But if these elevated levels of white blood cells are a frequent issue, then visit your doctor to confirm whether it’s a bladder infection or something else.
Holding in Urine: Holding in urine for long periods of time can weaken the bladder, and as a result, it is difficult to fully empty it. When extra urine remains in the bladder for too long, a bacterial infection can result, and with it, you’ll also see higher levels of white blood cells in urine.
Urinary Tract Blockage: A urinary tract blockage is another cause of leukocytes in urine. Bladder stones, kidney stones, trauma to the pelvis, or a pelvis tumor can all cause a urinary tract blockage. You may also find blood in your urine.
Leukocytes in Urine Symptoms
One of the most obvious signs of leukocytes in urine is foul-smelling or cloudy urine. You may also find that you are urinating more often than normal, and there may be a painful or burning sensation when you urinate. Other symptoms related to an excess of white blood cells in urine include blood in the urine; shivering, chills, and fever; kidney inflammation; systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a bladder tumor; abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting; chronic pelvic pain; and pain during sex.
Also Read: What Does It Mean When I Have Cloudy Urine?
Natural Ways to Treat Leukocytes in Urine
What are the most appropriate treatments for leukocytes in urine? Your doctor will likely suggest a round of antibiotics to treat a urinary tract infection or kidney infection, but there are also natural treatments available. A natural approach is a good idea since taking antibiotics too often may increase your risk of antibiotic resistance to certain bacteria. The following are natural ways to treat white blood cells in urine.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C will enhance the immune system and help protect against bladder infections and kidney problems. Vitamin C has also been found to reduce the risk of kidney stone formation. However, people with a history of kidney stones should have regular urinalyses done to monitor oxalate levels in the urine.
- Cranberry: Extensive research has found that cranberry is a possible antibiotic alternative for the treatment and prevention of UTIs. The antibacterial effect of hippuric acid in cranberry is thought to explain its effectiveness for bladder infections. Cranberry extract will also lower urinary calcium levels in those with a history of kidney stones.
- Uva Ursi: Uva ursi has been used for centuries to treat UTIs. The arbutin in uva ursi is converted to the antibacterial compound called hydroquinone. Uva ursi will cleanse the urinary tract, relieve pain, fight infection, and treat kidney stones. However, uva ursi can be toxic, and hydroquinone can potentially damage the liver, so be sure to talk to your doctor first before taking it.
- Goldenseal: Goldenseal is considered one of the most powerful herbal antimicrobial remedies. The active ingredient in goldenseal is called berberine. Naturopathic doctors have a long history of using goldenseal for treating infections, including UTIs. There is, however, no conclusive evidence of its efficacy and further research is needed.
- Low-Oxalate Diet: A diet high in oxalate content is thought to be responsible for as high as 80% of the urine oxalate in people with frequent kidney stones. Examples of foods high in oxalates include okra, spinach, Swiss chard, beets, rhubarb, dried figs, buckwheat, peanuts, peanut butter, almonds, and sesame seeds. Low oxalate foods include arugula, onions, zucchini, avocado, lemons, limes, cherries, wild rice, coconut, cinnamon, ginger, thyme, beef, chicken, eggs, and turkey.
- Other Supportive Nutrients: Other nutrients and supplements that help reduce the likelihood of kidney problems include magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B6, and inositol hexaphosphate (IP-6). Probiotics and D-Mannose also help for bladder infections.
- Other Herbal Remedies: There are also other herbs that help treat kidney problems, including aloe vera, dandelion root, horsetail, and juniper berry. Echinacea and oil of oregano are other herbal remedies can help a bladder infection.
- Homeopathy: Homeopathic remedies are great for both bladder infections and kidney stones. Aconitum napellus in particular is useful for the first two hours of a bladder infection. Nux vomica is a good remedy for kidney stones, when accompanied by vomiting, nausea, and cramping.
Tips to Treat Leukocytes in Urine
Here are a few other important things to remember when excess leukocytes show up in your urine:
- Never hesitate anytime you need to urinate. When you delay urination, you increase the risk of a bladder infection.
- Avoid antacids that contain aluminum. They are thought to cause kidney stones, especially when you take them after eating dairy.
- Eliminate alcohol and caffeine from the diet, and restrict your intake of salt. Caffeine, alcohol, and salt contribute to dehydration, and could eventually produce kidney stones.
- Aromatherapy is also effective for conditions like kidney and bladder infections. Chamomile and lavender are good essential oils that help both types of infections.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Balch, J., et al., Prescription for Natural Cures: A Self-Care Guide for Treating Health Problems with Natural Remedies Including Diet, Nutrition, Supplements, and Other Holistic Methods (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2004), 87–92, 370–374.
Murray, M., N.D., et al, The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine: Third Edition (New York: First Atria Paperback, 2012), 471–477, 764–773.
“Uva ursi,” University of Maryland Medical Center web site, last updated January 11, 2014; http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/uva-ursi, last accessed February 16, 2016.
“Goldenseal,” University of Maryland Medical Center web site, last updated March 25, 2016; http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/goldenseal, last accessed February 16, 2016.