9 reasons for Leukocytes Esterase trace in urine (Is it cancer?)

You’ve just gotten some urine tests done and are wondering about the meaning of the reports. One likely term to come up is leukocytes. This article will explain the possible reasons for leukocyte esterase traces in urine. Is it cancer, or is it harmless?


In this article we cover 9 reasons for Leukocytes Esterase trace in urine and if it’s cancer. A number of different serious conditions may cause your urine to show traces of leukocytes. Below, we cover 9 of the most common reasons. As always, when concerned about your health, it’s important to consult your doctor for any questions.

We’ll also look at the following:

  • What are leukocytes in urine?
  • What causes leukocytes in urine, and why do I have them?
  • First 5 reasons
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Holding in urine
  • Kidney stone
  • Inflammation
  • Lupus
  • 4 more reasons
  • Cancer
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Pregnancy
  • Medically induced
  • FAQ

Continue reading

Below you will also find tables with convenient overviews and notes for your quick reference.


What are leukocytes in urine?

Your body has some warriors that are ready to defend against all attacks of bacterial and viral infections. One form of these microscopic soldiers is leukocytes. These are white blood cells (WBC) known to defend against infections. They are a part of your immune system.

There are many types of leukocytes. These are granulocytes, monocytes, and lymphocytes.

Leukocytes Esterase is the name of a screening test. It is used to test for the presence of these white blood cells in the urine. Usually, it is prescribed when there is a suspicion of some infection, allergies, or inflammation.

What causes leukocytes in urine, and why do I have them?

Several different conditions may cause leukocytes in the urine and you should always consult your doctor for details and advise on how to proceed

  • Urinary Tract Infection, UTI
  • Holding urine
  • Kidney stone
  • Inflammation
  • Lupus
  • Cancer
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Pregnancy
  • Medication

The presence of some leukocytes in the test reports is normal. There is an issue only when there is an excess. There can be several reasons for this excess. Take a look below.

First 5 reasons

Medical conditionNotes
Urinary Tract Infection, UTIBurning sensation when you urinate, pain while urinating, foul-smelling urine, vomitting, pain in the belly or side.
Holding urineWeakening your bladder, risk of infection. Emptying bladder recommended every 4 hours
Kidney stoneInflammation, Genetic condition, weakness of kidney tissue, inability to filter waste
InflammationPain, redness, swollowing
LupusAuto-immune disease, immune system attacking itself. Improvement through lifestyle changes

Urinary tract infection

woman in pain

The most common reason to spot an excess WBC is an infection in the urinary tract. It is especially common in women, but one in five men is also likely to get it.

The urinary tract includes your kidney, bladder, and ureter. When this area contracts an infection, some possible signs and symptoms include:

To fight off the infection in the tract, leukocytes multiplies, and that causes the excess number seen in the reports. A UTI is curable and can easily be cured if you follow a regular course of antibiotics. It is recommended to practice good hygiene to prevent UTIs.

Holding in urine

woman about to pee

It’s never a good idea to hold off peeing for long. Not only are you weakening your bladder, but also leading it towards a potential infection. Bladder weakening will lead to further problems like not being able to empty your bladder fully. It is recommended to empty your bladder at least every 4 hours.

It’s essential to remember urine is the waste material of the body. Keeping it inside for too long can raise the risk of infections and promote the growth of unwanted microorganisms. If you are having trouble peeing, you can also check out 12 ways to overcome a shy bladder & make yourself pee.

Hydrate yourself frequently to keep infections at bay. For inspiration, you can also check out ways to clean your system in 24 hours.

Kidney stone

Issues in the kidney will also first be reflected in your urine in the form of leukocytes. It could be either a kidney stone or a condition like nephritis.

Nephritis is a condition in which the kidney tissues become inflamed and thus are weakened. In turn, it causes the inability to filter waste from the blood properly. Although it can be caused due to infections, it can also result from genetic conditions.

Kidney stones are exactly what they sound like – a hard formation of minerals and acid salts in your urinary tract. These are painful and difficult to pass through the urine. Surgery is recommended if they are too large or unlikely to pass on their own. They are caused mainly due to dietary and lifestyle issues like eating too much sugar, salt, or fructose, drinking little water, and exercising too much or too little.

  • Inflammation
  • Genetic condition
  • Weakness of kidney tissue
  • Inability to filter waste

Both conditions can cause leukocyte count to go up as they disturb the body’s ecosystem.


urine sample

Leukocytes are triggered when inflammation is increased in the body, especially in the kidney or bladder. Inflammation is the reaction that occurs when the immune system senses a threat. This threat can be a microorganism or an injury.

If in your urinary tract or kidney, it will take the form of pain in the side or back while urinating. Inflammation might look like a painful joint, redness, or swelling in other body parts.


The medical term for this is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. This auto-immune disease can trigger an overload of leukocytes in the urine. It is because the condition is caused by the immune system attacking itself. Since the body is constantly under threat, it is prone to producing WBCs.

Your doctor can diagnose as well as reduce the number of leukocytes with the correct treatment. However, currently, there is no cure for Lupus. It can only be improved through lifestyle changes to minimize the effects of the disease.

4 more reasons

Medical conditionNotes
CancerRare but could be early sign of prostate, kidney, or bladder cancer
Sexually Transmitted Disease, STDChlamydia, syphilis, gonococcal infections, HIV, or Herpes
PregnancyNormally, it’s harmless, natural and common
Medically inducedEpinephrine, aspirin, chloroform, quinine, corticosteroids, allopurinol, and triamterene

Always contact your doctor if you notice any abnormalities



It is rare, but it might be an early sign of prostate, kidney, or bladder cancer to spot heightened levels of leukocytes in the urine. If cancer is diagnosed, tracking WBCs will become a way to track the progression of the disease itself.

Sexually transmitted diseases

STDs can also often cause your WBC count to raise. These are diseases that spread through sexual contact. Bodily fluids like semen, blood, and vaginal discharge carry the infection from one person to another. The use of protection can limit these diseases.

While urinalysis is not the best indicator of an STD, it can be one of several signs. A high number of white blood cells shows that your body is fighting off an external threat that could be an STD.

It could be

  • Chlamydia
  • Syphilis
  • Gonococcal infections
  • HIV
  • Herpes


happy pregnant family

If you are pregnant, there is little cause to worry when you spot a high number of WBCs. It is quite common for pregnant women to have a high WBC count. It could be due to several factors.

Pregnant women are also the victim of several UTIs throughout pregnancy. It naturally increases the level of WBCs.

A harmless and symptomless bacterial infection called asymptomatic bacteriuria also drives up this indicator. It is also common during pregnancy.

simple toilet

Medically induced

Suppose you have recently been prescribed some medication and taken a urinalysis test right after. In that case, this could be why you have so many WBCs.

Some medication drives up the WBC count dramatically. These include

  • epinephrine
  • aspirin
  • chloroform
  • quinine
  • corticosteroids
  • allopurinol
  • triamterene.

Some medications also take the WBC count down. This condition is known as leukopenia. It can be seen in medicines like antibiotics, anticonvulsants, antithyroid medicine, and allergy medicine like antihistamines. Further medication includes chemotherapeutic agents, arsenicals, barbiturates, sulfonamides, etc.

Leukocytes in urine normal range

How do you spot what is normal and what is not in your urinalysis report? Here are some figures to keep in mind.

An adult should have a healthy presence of between 4500-11000 WBCs per microliter. Anything more than this is qualified as leukocytosis. It indicates the presence of some kind of infection, inflammation, or any of the reasons listed above. You should consult your doctor about this.

Leukocytes in urine but no infection,

luxurious toilet

Is it possible that you have a leukocytosis but no sign of an infection? Yes, certainly. Around 13.9% of women and 2% of men have a condition wherein there is a presence of leukocytosis without any infection. The condition is known as sterile pyuria.

Several factors can cause sterile pyuria. It could be due to a sexually transmitted disease or tuberculosis.

What can be detected in a urine test?

You can detect several diseases with a simple urine test. The first of these includes a UTI. Any issues in the kidney will also be reflected in the urine test first. That means any kidney stones, nephritis, or a condition like Microalbuminuria.

You can also catch signs of the early stages of some types of cancer. These include cancer of the bladder, kidney, and ureter.

Sexually transmitted diseases can also be checked through a urinalysis. High blood pressure will also be reflected in the urine in the form of catecholamines.

If there are certain things you are worried about showing up in your reports, check out how to pass a drug test.

High epithelial cells in urine

Epithelial cells are the barrier between your body’s insides and the outer world’s threats. They are found on the surface of organs like the skin, urinary tract, blood vessels, etc.

Some epithelial cells are common, but a high number may indicate signs of a deeper meaning. There are three types of epithelial cells in the urine – squamous, renal, and transitional.

An increase in any of the above can mean trouble. For instance, a high number of renal tubular cells can mean a kidney infection or any other kidney disorder.

Squamous cells come from the vagina or urethra. Between fifteen to twenty squamous cells per high power field are normal. Anything higher than this can indicate UTI, yeast infection, or kidney or liver disease.

More than 15 renal cells per high power field indicate your kidney is suffering from something. Consult your doctor, and the recommended tests will diagnose the conditions.

Leukocytes in urine no nitrates

Suppose you test positive for leukocytosis but find no levels of nitrates in the urine. In that case, it doesn’t mean you are free of infection.

The most likely scenario is that you have a UTI. Your doctor will probably recommend a retest if you don’t have a UTI.

Some bacterial infections do not convert nitrates into nitrites, which is why tracking them in the urine test becomes tougher.

Leukocytes in urine during pregnancy

doctor checking pregnant woman

UTIs are common during pregnancy. It is what drives up the leukocyte count during those nine months.

It is also common to have bacterial urine infections without any signs and symptoms. It leads to leukocytosis but is harmless. This condition is known as asymptomatic bacteriuria.

pregnant woman


Let’s take a look at some further common health questions.

Are leukocytes in urine serious?

Some leukocytes in the urine are normal and healthy. Only a high number indicates that something is wrong.

What could be wrong if you have a high number of leukocytes? It depends on several factors. It is common to have a high number if you are talking about a pregnant woman.

Other age groups and genders could be suffering from something mild to serious. A high number of these cells indicates either an urine infection, kidney issues, or inflammation.

In very rare circumstances, it could also indicate signs of serious diseases like Lupus or bladder, kidney, or ureter cancer.

However, you should consult your doctor before jumping to conclusions.

Can leukocytes in urine mean STD?

Yes. An increased level of white blood cells could indicate that you have chlamydia or gonococcal infection. A high number of epithelial cells also indicate there could be an STD lurking. Epithelial cells are also protective of the body from infections, just like WBCs. Squamous cells in the vagina or urethra opening could indicate signs of an infection or even an STD.

What is a high number of leukocytes in urine?

Per field, there ought to be 4500-11000 per microliter. Or between 0-5 per field is the normal range to have. Pregnant women will have a higher amount than this. But for others, having anything higher is indicative of an underlying disease, infection, or condition.

What does a flag mean on urine test results?

When your reports come through, there are some labels used to make it simpler for the doctor to read them and identify the things that stand out. It is where flagging is used.

An H flag will indicate that a particular finding is higher than the normal range. An L flag will indicate that a factor is below the normal range, hence low. A C will indicate very low levels. It is similar to the double arrow facing downwards, which indicates the same.

A double arrow flag facing upwards means a very high result. Asterisks or hashtags can also mark whatever stands out from the normal range.

What is leukocytosis?

It is a condition wherein a person has a high number of White blood cells. It can be due to an underlying disease or infection. It can also be due to several other factors like stress.
Since this condition causes your blood to thicken, it should be treated immediately. Otherwise, it can lead to several issues like:
– Stroke
– blood loss from the mouth, intestines, or stomach.
– Trouble breathing
If you have not yet found any other infection, it could be that some other factors are causing the high WBC count. Symptoms include:
– Pain
– Bruising easily
– Fever
– itching and rashes
– weight loss
– sweating at night

What are leukocytes?

Your body needs defenders and protectors from all outside threats. White blood cells or leukocytes are those warriors that reach the battleground whenever an outside threat like a virus or bacteria enters the body.

They are known to fight off the infection until it is no longer a threat. Their presence is normal in your body. But if they are present in a higher number than usual, you can ascertain that they must be increasing their number to fight off a bigger threat.

It could be several things like inflammation, an injury, a UTI, auto-immune disease, and sometimes cancer.

Do leukocytes indicate cancer?

It is not always the case. A high WBC count should not be considered a sign of cancer in haste. A high white blood cell count is indeed part of a lymphoma or leukemia diagnosis. Still, it does not Ho mean it is the only diagnosis.

The likely scenario is that it is caused due to a virus, bacteria, or injury.

On the other hand, if you have already been diagnosed with cancer, your reports will indicate a low WBC count. Chemotherapy and other drugs slow down the production of WBC in the bone marrow, especially if the cancer is in the bone marrow.

How many leukocytes is a UTI?

A UTI is of the bladder, kidney, or urethra. It is quite common in women and occurs in 2% of men as well.
When a doctor suspects a UTI, they are likely to recommend a Urine culture test. A high leukocyte count between 5-10 in each high-powered field indicates that the diagnosis is that of a UTI.
But worry not! It is a highly treatable and curable disease. Medication and lifestyle changes like drinking water will quickly treat it. Symptoms of a UTI include:
– Burning sensation or difficulty while urinating.
– Pain in the abdomen.
– Frequent urination.
– Foul-smelling urine 
– and nausea.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

      Leave a reply

      Login/Register access is temporary disabled