What is Urinalysis?
A Urinalysis is a group of tests done to examine your urine (pee). It finds and measures substances such as electrolytes, sugar (glucose), proteins, blood, cells and bacteria. It may also be called a urine test.
Why a Urinalysis is done
A Urinalysis is often done as part of a routine checkup, but it can be done at any time. It may be done to:
- Learn about your general health
- Check how well organs of the urinary system are working
- Check for kidney problems, kidney disease, urinary tract infections or diabetes
- Check if a woman is pregnant
- Help diagnose certain cancers, such as kidney cancer and bladder cancer
- Monitor a condition (as a part of follow-up)
How a Urinalysis is done
A Urinalysis is usually done in a laboratory or hospital. You don’t typically need any special preparation for a Urinalysis. But in some cases, special instructions will be given to you to obey before a Urinalysis is completed. You may be told not to eat or drink anything for several hours (called fasting) or to avoid other foods.
It stores the urine in a clean bottle. For urinalysis, a random sample of urine is most commonly obtained. This ensures it produces a small volume of urine at any time of day. But you may be asked to collect the urine at a particular time of day, like first thing in the morning. The lab will give you directions about how to retrieve the urine and how long it should be stored. You should clean the genital region before collecting the urine sample (between the labia in women or the tip of the penis in men). Start urinating in the toilet (the first bit of urine you do not collect); Then collect any urine (called midstream urine or clean-catch) in the bottle.
A 24-hour sample of urine is often needed to help doctors better understand what is happening in the body. This ensures that all of the urine is collected over a 24-hour period. The urine is stored in a large container which often contains or has to be held cold with special preservatives. The laboratory will give you instructions for collecting the urine. A research expert (a research technologist) then analyses the urine sample. The urine is analyzed with special paper strips (called dipsticks) and a microscope.
What do the results of Urinalysis mean?
A Urinalysis offers general information which may offer clues to potential health issues for doctors. Urinalysis information lets physicians determine whether more testing or procedures are needed to make a diagnosis. The details will also assist the doctor in designing or revising treatment plans.
To have value, the findings of the Urinalysis should be contrasted with a standard reference set. A doctor understanding your medical background and general health is the best source to clarify the findings of your Urinalysis and what they mean for you.
A Urinalysis and its results are usually divided into 3 parts:
- What the urine looks like (visual exam)
- Levels of certain chemicals or substances (chemical exam)
- Cells and bacteria in the sample (microscopic exam)
The following are some examples of Urinalysis results and what they may mean.
Visual exam results
Standard urine is light to dark yellow and translucent. Some drugs or foods may cause an irregular colour in the urine. Cloudy urine can mean the sample contains blood cells or bacteria.
Chemical exam results
Urine is usually slightly acidic. Having urine that is very acid or very alkaline may mean you at increased risk of developing kidney stones (hard deposits of minerals such as Calcium that start forming in the kidney). Certain substances are not usually found in urine.
- Protein in the urine (proteinuria) may mean kidney problems, kidney disease, high blood pressure, inflammation of the urinary tract or cancer in the urinary tract.
- Sugar in the urine may mean diabetes or disease of the liver or pancreas.
- Blood in the urine (hematuria) may mean there is bleeding in the urinary tract, which could be caused by cancer.
- Bilirubin in the urine may mean there is cancer in the liver or a bile duct is blocked by a tumour.
Microscopic exam results
Looking at urine through a microscope can find cells, parts of cells and bacteria or other germs.
- An increased number of red blood cells (RBCs) and haemoglobin in the urine means there is blood in the urine.
- An increased number of white blood cells (WBCs) in the urine may mean there is an infection or inflammation in the urinary tract.
- An increased number of epithelial cells in the urine may mean there is an infection, inflammation or cancer.
- Bacteria in the urine may mean there is an infection in the urinary tract or vagina.
Advantage of urinalysis:
Early Disease Detection: Urinalysis can detect various diseases and conditions at an early stage, even before symptoms appear. It helps identify underlying health issues such as urinary tract infections, kidney diseases, diabetes, liver problems, and certain types of cancer.
Non-invasive Procedure: Urinalysis is a non-invasive and relatively simple procedure. It only requires a urine sample, which can be easily obtained from the patient, making it a convenient diagnostic test.
Screening Tool: Urinalysis is an effective screening tool in healthcare settings. It helps identify abnormalities that may require further investigation or treatment. Routine urinalysis can be conducted during annual check-ups or pre-employment medical examinations to assess overall health.
Monitoring Treatment: Urinalysis allows healthcare professionals to monitor the progress of treatment or the effectiveness of medications. For example, in diabetes management, urine glucose levels can indicate whether blood sugar is being controlled adequately.
Kidney Function Evaluation: Urinalysis provides valuable information about kidney function. It can detect kidney-related issues, such as kidney infections, kidney stones, and impaired renal function. Additionally, the presence of protein or blood in the urine can indicate kidney damage or disease.
Pregnancy Monitoring: Urinalysis is commonly used during prenatal care to monitor the health of pregnant women and detect any potential complications. It helps identify conditions like gestational diabetes, urinary tract infections, preeclampsia, and kidney problems that can impact both the mother and the baby.
Drug Testing: Urinalysis is frequently employed in drug testing programs to detect the presence of illicit drugs or medications in a person’s system. It is widely used in workplace drug testing, athletic competitions, and rehabilitation programs.
Hydration Assessment: The color, clarity, and specific gravity of urine can provide insights into an individual’s hydration status. Urinalysis can help assess whether a person is adequately hydrated or experiencing dehydration.
Infection Diagnosis: Urinalysis aids in diagnosing urinary tract infections (UTIs) by identifying the presence of bacteria, white blood cells, or other signs of infection in the urine. This allows for prompt treatment with appropriate antibiotics.
Cost-Effective: Urinalysis is a cost-effective diagnostic tool compared to more complex and expensive tests. It provides valuable information about a person’s health status, enabling timely interventions and preventing the progression of diseases.
It is important to note that while urinalysis offers many advantages, it is often used in conjunction with other diagnostic tests and clinical evaluations to form a comprehensive picture of a person’s health.