About the Test
A urinalysis is a test of your urine. It's used to detect and manage a wide range of disorders, such as urinary tract infections, kidney disease and diabetes. A urinalysis may be performed during a routine check-up, to evaluate certain symptoms, or upon admission to the hospital. It is also a common test for people who are pregnant.
A complete urinalysis will typically include a visual (also called physical) examination, a microscopic examination, and a chemical dipstick test, each of which involves different measurements and evaluations.
Visual examination checks the color and clarity. If your urine has blood in it, it might be red or dark brown. Foam can be a sign of kidney disease, while cloudy urine may mean you have an infection.
A lab technician may examine a urine sample under a microscope to look for tiny substances in the urine, including:
Bacteria or other germs.
To examine chemical aspects of a urine sample, healthcare providers or lab technicians often use special test strips called dipsticks to test for certain chemical substances in the urine sample. The strips have pads of chemicals that change color when they come in contact with specific substances. Things the dipstick test can check for include:
- Acidity, or pH. A high urine pH may indicate conditions including kidney issues and a urinary tract infection (UTI). A low urine pH may indicate conditions including diabetic ketoacidosis and diarrhea.
- Protein. This can be a sign your kidneys aren’t working right.
- Glucose. A high sugar content is a marker for diabetes.
- Ketones: Ketones develop when the body uses fat instead of glucose for energy production.
- Bilirubin is a yellowish pigment found in bile, a fluid produced by your liver. If you have bilirubin in your urine, it may indicate liver or bile duct issues.
- Nitrites. This means that there is an infection with certain kinds of bacteria.
- White blood cells. These are a sign of infection or inflammation, either in the kidneys or anywhere else along your urinary tract.
Blood cells: Dipstick tests can be used to look for evidence of blood and blood cells in the urine.
Concentration/specific gravity: This measures the concentration of particles in your urine and can be related to fluid levels in the body.
Purpose of the test
A urinalysis is a common test that's done for several reasons:
To check your overall health. A urinalysis might be part of a routine medical exam, pregnancy checkup or pre-surgery preparation. Or it might be used to screen for a variety of disorders, such as diabetes, kidney disease or liver disease, when you're admitted to a hospital.
To diagnose a medical condition. A urinalysis might be requested if you have abdominal pain, back pain, frequent or painful urination, blood in your urine, or other urinary problems. A urinalysis can help diagnose the cause of these signs and symptoms.
To monitor a medical condition. If you've been diagnosed with a medical condition, such as kidney disease or a urinary tract infection, your doctor might recommend testing your urine regularly to monitor your condition and treatment.