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What is Leukocyte Esterase?

K.C. Bruning
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Leukocyte esterase (LE) is a type of urine test that is most commonly used to diagnose urinary tract infection (UTI). The test is also known as WBS esterase. It is used to determine if white blood cells are in the urine, which indicates an infection. More specifically, it looks for the enzyme white blood cells release called esterase. The LE test is often used with a urinary nitrite test to confirm a UTI.

An LE test is painless, quick and non-invasive. In order for the test to be conducted, the patient must provide a clean urine sample. Then a medical professional will place a strip known as a dipstick into the urine. The dipstick has several different color blocks, each of which will or will not change color, depending on the content of the urine. One of those is formulated to change color if there are elements present that indicate leukocytes in the urine.

If the leukocyte esterase shows a negative result, then the patient usually does not have an infection. There are some things that can cause the test to have a false negative, such as large amounts of vitamin C or protein in the urine. It is also possible to get a false positive due to a trichomonas infection or secretions from the vagina such as mucus or blood.

A positive leukocyte esterase typically indicates an infection, though it could also be some other sort of contamination. If the patient has other signs of a UTI, then treatment is often initiated for that condition without any further testing. In instances where the patient does not have symptoms of an infection, there may be need for a urine culture or examination of a sample under a microscope in order to make a diagnosis.

The results of the leukocyte esterase and the presence of symptoms combined can help a doctor to diagnose a urinary tract infection. These symptoms include a constant, urgent need to urinate, though the amounts produced are small, and a burning feeling while urinating. Urine may also look cloudy or have a pink hue due to the presence of blood. The urine may also have a strong smell. A urine infection can affect the urethra, bladder or kidneys.

Urinary tract infections are usually treated with oral antibiotics. If the infection is serious, hospitalization and intravenous (IV) administration of antibiotics may be required. Hospitalization is usually the result of an infection in the kidneys.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
K.C. Bruning
By K.C. Bruning
Kendahl Cruver Bruning, a versatile writer and editor, creates engaging content for a wide range of publications and platforms, including The Health Board. With a degree in English, she crafts compelling blog posts, web copy, resumes, and articles that resonate with readers. Bruning also showcases her passion for writing and learning through her own review site and podcast, offering unique perspectives on various topics.
Discussion Comments
By clintflint — On Apr 02, 2013

@pleonasm - Well, women are supposedly far more likely to get UTIs. I've never had one myself although I once had a false positive because I had been taking vitamin C supplements.

I associate it more with older men, since they use it in films every now and then and it can be extremely painful when the prostate enlarges and they can't pass urine at all. That's the kind of situation you want to avoid.

By pleonasm — On Apr 01, 2013

I once had an ex accuse me of giving him an STD because he had tested positive for leukocyte esterase in his urine and the doctor told him UTIs can be sexually transmitted.

I think technically they can be, but most of the time they are caused by other factors. I was really upset that he accused me of that and quickly got tested so I could tell him it wasn't me. Basically my doctor thought it was ridiculous since I wasn't showing any symptoms, but since the test is so easy he let me do it and of course it came back negative.

By browncoat — On Apr 01, 2013

My sister gets these infections all the time and eventually she worked out that it happens when she eats too much sugar. She always had a really big sweet tooth, so it's difficult for her to go without sugar, but she feels so much better without it.

Although UTIs aren't a huge big deal, they can be very debilitating, especially if you get them over and over again. And they can lead to other bad things if they go untreated.

K.C. Bruning
K.C. Bruning
Kendahl Cruver Bruning, a versatile writer and editor, creates engaging content for a wide range of publications and...
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