Urinalysis is a broad term used to describe urine testing.

This form of testing is used to detect and diagnose conditions such as:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease

Urine tests may be used to diagnose medical conditions such as those listed above, as well as check your overall health, and monitor any existing conditions you may have been diagnosed with. These tests are commonly performed during a routine check-up, before surgery, or during pregnancy. They help doctors screen for and diagnose conditions that may not be apparent during a physical examination.

Urine tests are usually performed for three reasons. These are detailed below:

- Diagnosis: Urinalysis may be requested if you are experiencing pain or difficulty during urination, back pain, or abdominal pain. This helps doctors diagnose conditions such as kidney disease, liver disease, urinary tract infections, and diabetes.

- Check-up: Urinalysis is commonly part of a standard health panel performed at a routine check-up. Doctors will test your urine for various enzymes and substances that may indicate your overall health, as well as internal organ function. Pregnant women are commonly ordered to submit urine tests to check the health of the pregnancy.

- Monitoring: If you have been diagnosed with a kidney or liver disease, diabetes, or a urinary tract infection, urinalysis may be ordered to monitor the efficacy of your treatment. This can also help doctors check how the disease is progressing over time.

Urine tests employ a microscope visual examination, as well as a dipstick test to identify possible infections in the urinary tract. Dipstick tests, specifically, check the chemical balance of urine to measure levels of:

- Acidity: Excessive acidity (ph) levels in the urine may indicate a kidney or urinary tract disorder.

- Protein: Large amounts of protein in the urine may indicate a kidney disorder, as the kidneys are responsible for filtering these substances out of the urine.

- Glucose: Elevated sugar levels in the urine are usually an indication of prediabetes or diabetes.

- Ketones: Ketones, like glucose, are sugar substances that may indicate diabetes or prediabetes.

- Nitrates: Nitrates in the urine are a common indicator of infection.

- White blood cells: White blood cells in the urine are a common indicator of infection.

- Bilirubin: Bilirubin is a waste product from the breakdown of red blood cells in the liver. The presence of this substance in urine may indicate a liver disorder.

- Blood: Blood in the urine commonly indicates kidney damage, kidney disease, kidney stones, urinary tract cancers, or bleeding disorders.

If a microscope exam is performed, your urine will be checked for the presence of:

- White blood cells: White blood cells in the urine are usually an indicator of infection.

- Red blood cells: Red blood cells in the urine are a common sign of a kidney disorder, bladder cancer, or an infection of the urinary tract.

- Pathogens: Bacteria, viruses, parasites, or yeast in the urine may indicate the presence of an infection in the urinary tract, kidneys, or liver.

- Crystals: Uric crystals are a common indicator of kidney stones,

In most cases, no specific preparation is needed for urinalysis. If you are undergoing other forms of testing concurrently - such as blood tests - you may be ordered to fast for 8-12 hours before your appointment. Before scheduling a urine test, talk to your doctor if you can expect other forms of testing to be done as well. If fasting is required, it is recommended that you schedule your appointment first thing in the morning so you can go about your daily activities afterward.

Before your appointment, talk to your doctor about any medication or supplements you may be taking. Women having their period should inform their doctor of this before starting their urine test.

During your appointment, you will be given a cleansing wipe and a container to catch the urine sample. Men are instructed to clean the opening of the urethra with the wipe, and women are instructed to spread the labia and wipe from front to back. You will then begin to urinate in the toilet. As you urinate, pass the container under the stream to collect the needed amount of urine. Usually, only 1-2 oz is needed for a sample. Afterward, clean the sampling container and deliver it to your doctor per their instructions. This container will then be given to the lab for analysis.

Your urine will be analyzed through a visual exam, a microscope exam, and a dipstick test.

The visual exam checks the urine for cloudiness or blood. Cloudy urine is a common indicator of an infection (such as a UTI). Excessive protein levels in the urine may make it appear foamy. If the urine is red or brown, there may be blood present in the sample. This is a common indicator of an infection or internal organ damage.

It is recommended that you refrain from eating beets or rhubarb before your urine test, as these foods may discolor your urine.

After a microscope and dipstick test are performed, the lab analyzing the urine will deliver a report to your health care provider. They will call you to discuss results, and order any follow-up testing (if needed). Urinalysis is rarely used to diagnose a condition. Instead, it is a screening test that may indicate a problem that needs further testing to diagnose. Additionally, if your urine test shows no indication of disease or infection, but you are still experiencing symptoms or a urinary problem, talk to your doctor. Additional testing may be requested to double-check for conditions such as UTIs or diabetes.

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