The medical term for cloudy, frothy and foul smelling pus in the urine is pyuria. It means the presence of significantly elevated level of white blood cells (leukocytes) in urine. White blood cells work with the immune system to defend against infectious diseases. A small number of white blood cells are normally present in the urine. But elevated levels indicate urinary tract problems signaling possible damage to the kidneys, ureters, urethra or bladder, inflammation or a contaminant.
Pyuria can be symptomatic or asymptomatic. Pyuria due to bacterial infection is symptomatic unless partially treated. Pyuria is asymptomatic when related to chronic infection from tuberculosis or mycoplasma, long-time indwelling catheters, inflammatory conditions like hemorrhagic cystitis, tubulointerstital nephritis or chronic prostatitis in men, or a contaminant such as vaginal secretions, vaginitis, cystocele etc. Asymptomatic pyuria goes away on its own, even without treatment.
Time to test
The test is done when individuals notice symptoms and seek medical attention. A physical examination is followed by laboratory urine test for pyuria urinalysis. If the test indicates pyuria, a culture of urine is suggested to detect the strain of bacteria that causes pyuria. To detect kidney abnormalities or infection, an intravenous pyelogram or ultrasound imaging of kidney is done. The presence of more than 3-5 white blood cells per high power field in the spun urine confirms pyuria.
Urinary tract infection: The chance of urinary tract infection is high in men and women who are diabetic. As the urethra in women is comparatively shorter than men, it is easier for microorganisms to enter the female urinary tract and cause infection which increases the chance of women contracting urinary tract infection.
Sexually transmitted diseases: Men and women with sexually transmitted diseases are prone to pyuria.
Other causes: Other causes can be infectious or non-infectious.
Non infectious: Medications, advanced age, pregnancy, tumors either benign or malignant can cause pus in the urine. Any other underlying problem in the kidney can also result in excessive levels of white cells in the urine.
The cause for pyuria determines treatment. For urinary tract infections, doctors prescribe antibiotic medicines. If the cause is due to sexually transmitted diseases, hygiene and other precautionary measures is recommended. Drinking plenty of water, juices sans sugar, avoiding fried foods, practicing good hygiene, not delaying for too long the urgency to urinate are proven precautionary measures of pyuria.
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Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: May 21, 2022