With proper treatment, Escherichia coli in the urine does not lead to serious complications, notes Mayo Clinic. E. coli is the leading cause of urinary tract infections, according to UCSF Medical Center. These bacteria normally live in the intestinal tract where they do not cause problems but sometimes move to the urinary tract in women. Without treatment the resulting infection sometimes advances to the kidneys where it potentially causes serious complications.
Symptoms of a urinary tract infection include the frequent need to urinate, a burning sensation when urinating, abdominal pain and changes in the appearance of the urine, reports UCSF Medical Center. If flank pain, nausea or vomiting accompanies these symptoms, the infection potentially involves the kidneys. When symptoms indicate a kidney infection, immediate medical attention is necessary.
Young children and older adults face the greatest risk of kidney damage from an infection, reports Mayo Clinic. Caregivers often overlook symptoms in these groups or confuse them with other symptoms. In older women the infection sometimes causes mild symptoms or none at all, indicates UCSF Medical Center. In such cases it is necessary to watch for changes in the frequency of urination or for involuntary urinary leakage.
Other complications of an untreated urinary tract infection include recurrent infections and complications during pregnancy. Some men experience urethral narrowing. The infection also potentially develops into sepsis, which is a life-threatening condition, warns Mayo Clinic.