Overview of Urinalysis
A urinalysis, also known as a urine test, is a test for your urine often used, especially during health checkups or cases of a urinary tract infection. A urinalysis is a quick, painless test that involves the patient submitting a sample of their urine, usually collected in a urine sample cup. If abnormal findings are found, further diagnostic tests are run to find the root cause of your urinary issues.
What does a Urinalysis test for?
A Urinalysis is used to detect a multitude of medical conditions, such as urinary tract infections, kidney disease and diabetes. The urinalysis checks the appearance, concentration, and content of urine, whereby increased levels of protein in the urine could be a sign of kidney disease.
In general, a urinalysis takes into account the following aspects:
- Colour and Appearance
- Chemical findings in the urine
- Microscopic findings in the urine
Diagnosing a medical condition
The urine sample is often examined for any visual abnormalities such as colour, odour and clarity. These abnormalities could be caused by anything from medications and food consumed, to the presence of bacteria or infection.
A dipstick is often used to dip into the urine to see if there are any changes to the test strip that would indicate a chemical reaction. It tests for and measures certain substances such as:
- Protein levels — Abnormally high protein levels may indicate several health conditions such as heart failure, kidney issues or dehydration.
- Urine pH levels — High urine pH levels may indicate kidney issues or a urinary tract infection, whereas a low pH may indicate conditions such as diabetic ketoacidosis and diarrhoea.
- Ketones — The presence of ketones may indicate diabetic ketoacidosis.
- Glucose — The presence of glucose may be a sign of diabetes.
- Bilirubin — Traces of bilirubin may indicate liver or bile duct issues.
- Haemolysed blood — Blood in the urine may indicate kidney damage, infection, cancer or blood disorders.
- Nitrite — Nitrite in urine may indicate UTI.
- Leukocyte esterase — The presence of leukocyte esterase may indicate inflammation of the urinary tract or kidneys.
- Urine-specific gravity test — this tests for the concentration of all chemical particles in the urine, where an abnormal result may indicate several different health conditions.
In the case of having to test for microscopic findings, these are some of the microscopic tests that might be included:
- Red blood cells — Elevated levels of red blood cells may indicate haematuria, which could mean bladder, kidney or urinary tract issues.
- White blood cells — Elevated levels of white blood cells may indicate an infection or inflammation in the urinary tract.
- Epithelial cells — The presence of epithelial cells may indicate contamination of the sample by skin cells or vaginal discharge.
- Bacteria, yeast and parasites — If present, could be indicative of a UTI, yeast infection or trichomoniasis (an STI).
- Urinary casts — Urinary casts are cylindrical structures produced by kidney cells. Although most are benign, they may point to disease in the genitourinary tract.
- Urinary crystals — Crystals found in urine may indicate kidney stones.
Monitoring a medical condition
There are certain conditions such as liver disease, kidney disease and diabetes that a healthcare provider might want to monitor to see if the condition is stable or worsening. A urinalysis would often be ordered to ensure that proper treatment is rendered in such cases.
How to prepare for a Urinalysis
Before going to a urology clinic, drink enough liquids to be able to produce a urine sample. Your urologist might request for the urine sample to be the first urine of the day (in the morning), of which this will be made known to you.
Certain medications can affect the results of your urinalysis, so you may have to stop taking them temporarily. It would also be good to let your urologist know if you are menstruating as this can interfere with certain results of the test.
What should you expect during the procedure?
Your healthcare provider will provide instructions for the procedure. You will also be given a sterile wipe for you to clean your genital area before asking you to collect your urine sample. The urine sample collected is often midstream and it is advised that you urinate a little, hold the urine, place the sample cup a few centimetres away from the urethra before continuing to urinate into the cup. In most cases, a half cup of urine would suffice.
Do let your healthcare provider know if you have issues urinating as well, as this might result in a different test being ordered.
Understanding the results
After collecting your urine sample, your results can be quite immediate if only a dipstick is ordered, or in the case of your sample being sent to the laboratory, it will be further analysed, and the result will be sent back to your urologist. In most cases of a lab analysis, the results should be back within 1 to 2 business days.
After receiving the results, your urologist will analyse the report and will run you through the results accordingly to let you know if there are any areas of concern, or even refer you to the relevant department should the issue be non-urology related.
Hopefully this article helped you better understand what a urinalysis is, what its results can tell your urologist and what to expect. Our urine can tell us a lot, making urinalysis a quick and painless way of getting a good overview of your urinary health. Find out more about how to collect a “midstream clean-catch”, or sample free of contamination, here.