Urinalysis – Overview

A urinalysis is a test of your urine. It is often done to check for a urinary tract infections, kidney problems, or diabetes. You may also have one during a checkup, if you are admitted to the hospital, before you have surgery, or if you are pregnant. It can also monitor some medical conditions and treatments.

A urinalysis involves checking the urine for

  • Its color
  • Its appearance (whether it is clear or cloudy)
  • Any odor
  • The pH level (acidity)
  • Whether there are substances that are not normally in urine, such as blood, too much protein, glucose, ketones, and bilirubin
  • Whether there are cells, crystals, and casts (tube-shaped proteins)
  • Whether it contains bacteria or other germs

Test Preparation

Normal eat and drinking is fine. But tell your doctor what medications and supplements you’re taking.

Results

A urinalysis results contains a list of indicators.

  • Acidity (pH). The pH level indicates the amount of acid in urine. Abnormal pH levels may indicate a kidney or urinary tract disorder.
  • Concentration. A measure of concentration, or specific gravity, shows how concentrated particles are in your urine. A higher than normal concentration often is a result of not drinking enough fluids.
  • Protein. Low levels of protein in urine are normal. Small increases in protein in urine usually aren’t a cause for concern, but larger amounts may indicate a kidney problem.
  • Sugar. Normally the amount of sugar (glucose) in urine is too low to be detected. Any detection of sugar on this test usually calls for follow-up testing for diabetes.
  • Ketones. As with sugar, any amount of ketones detected in your urine could be a sign of diabetes and requires follow-up testing.
  • Bilirubin. Bilirubin is a product of red blood cell breakdown. Normally, bilirubin is carried in the blood and passes into your liver, where it’s removed and becomes part of bile. Bilirubin in your urine may indicate liver damage or disease.
  • Evidence of infection. If either nitrites or leukocyte esterase — a product of white blood cells — is detected in your urine, it may be a sign of a urinary tract infection.
  • Blood. Blood in your urine requires additional testing — it may be a sign of kidney damage, infection, kidney or bladder stones, kidney or bladder cancer, or blood disorders.
  • White blood cells (leukocytes) may be a sign of an infection.
  • Red blood cells (erythrocytes) may be a sign of kidney disease, a blood disorder or another underlying medical condition, such as bladder cancer.
  • Bacteria or yeasts may indicate an infection.
  • Casts — tube-shaped proteins — may form as a result of kidney disorders.
  • Crystals that form from chemicals in urine may be a sign of kidney stones.

Usually all of these indicators are listed in the test report.

 

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