What is a Urinalysis?

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Urology 101: What is a Urinalysis?

A urinalysis is a medical test done using three different methods: a visual exam, a dipstick test, and a microscopic exam. The testing allows doctors to analyze your urine and determine whether or not there are any abnormalities present. Since many illnesses and diseases affect the waste-removal processes and systems in your body, a urinalysis will help determine your overall health and how to proceed if there are abnormalities.

Getting a urinalysis helps your doctor or urologist measure many different substances in your urine, such as byproducts of normal or abnormal metabolism, cells, cellular fragments, and bacteria.4 In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about what a urinalysis is.

Why is a Urinalysis Done?

Urinalysis is a common medical procedure. It’s done for one of several reasons and is often the first test of many (if abnormalities are present) along the road of a diagnosis.

Assessing Symptoms

If you’ve been experiencing irregular urinary symptoms, your doctor or urologist will order a urinalysis to better understand what’s causing them. Some symptoms that require a urinalysis include abdominal or back pain, frequent or painful urination, blood in your urine, or other urinary problems.2

Always be honest and transparent with your doctor regarding your symptoms for accurate follow-up care. A urinalysis will help your doctor diagnose certain medical conditions properly.

Routine Checkups

Many doctors will include a urinalysis in your routine medical evaluation. Sampling urine yearly allows for better analysis comparisons over time. If you’re ever admitted to the hospital, a urinalysis will be done as a preliminary screening.5

Monitoring Disease

If you have certain diseases such as kidney disease or urinary tract disease, you will need to get a urinalysis done regularly.2 This allows your doctor to monitor changes, track abnormalities, and ensure that you’re treatment is going as planned.

Verifying a Response to Therapy

Similarly, if your doctor is using a specific type of therapy or treatment plan, you will need to get a urinalysis as a follow up to the treatment. This will help them understand whether or not the treatment is working or if you need to try a different approach.

How is the Urine Sample Analyzed?

After you’ve given your urologist a clean catch sample of urine, they will use a variety of tests to analyze it and determine a diagnosis. The three tests include a visual exam, a dipstick test, and a microscopic exam.

Visual Exam

Urologists can determine a lot just by looking at your urine. During a visual exam, they will examine the color and clarity of your urine.1 If there are any signs of blood, foam, or cloudiness, or if your urine has a strong odor, there is likely an underlying problem.2

Blood in your urine, which is called hematuria, makes it appear reddish or brown and is a sign that something is disrupting your urinary tract.3 Foamy urine is an indicator of kidney disease1 and cloudiness or odor is an indication of infection.2

If your urologist suspects something is wrong, there are more tests required for a proper diagnosis.

Dipstick Test

The next test used to analyze a urine sample is called a dipstick test. This involves using a thin, plastic, chemical covered stick that will detect any abnormalities.2 Dipstick tests help test for a number of different things and will indicate any abnormalities with color changes. Some things measured with a dipstick test include:

  • Acidity (pH levels) – If you have a low pH level, it means your urine is more acidic. If your urine acidity is abnormal, it could indicate certain disorders or problems with your urinary tract system.2
  • Concentration – This measures how concentrated certain particles are in a urine sample, which helps determine hydration levels.2 The more concentrated your urine, the more dehydrated you are.
  • Protein – Trace amounts of proteins aren’t a problem. If you have a large excess of proteins visible in your urine, it could mean that your kidneys aren’t functioning properly.2
  • Sugar – Sugar will either gets used up by the body as an energy source or converted into fat. For this reason, there isn’t usually a strong presence of sugar in urine. When there are, further tests need to be done to ensure that you haven’t developed diabetes.2
  • KetonesKetone presence is another indicator of diabetes, so follow up tests will be needed.
  • Bilirubin – Bilirubin is a by-product of the red blood cells after being broken down.2 In a normal test, there won’t be any bilirubin because it passes through your liver and turns into bile. Presence of bilirubin in urine could therefore point to liver damage or disease.2
  • Blood – Blood in your urine could be an indication of a number of things, so you will need to get more tests done.
  • Evidence of Infection – Signs of infection are present when there are nitrates or leukocyte esterase detected in a dipstick test.2

 

Microscopic Exam

Finally, your urologist will perform a microscopic exam. A microscopic exam will look at the red and white blood cells, bacteria, casts (a type of protein), and crystals present in your urine.1 If any of them are elevated, you will need to get additional tests for a proper diagnosis.

Urinalysis Preparations

Since a urinalysis involves giving a sample from a clean catch of urine, there are minor preparations that you’ll need to do.

Food, Drink, and Drug Intake

There aren’t any restrictions on what you can eat or drink prior to a urinalysis. Just make sure that you’re not going to be getting any other tests done at the same time that require limitations.

You will want to make sure that you’re properly hydrated for your urinalysis so you can give a strong urine sample. Avoid over-hydrating so your urine is concentrated enough for accurate results.

If you’re currently taking any prescription drugs or over-the-counter supplements, talk to your doctor. Certain medications or supplements will affect your results. Some of them include vitamin C, metronidazole, riboflavin, anthraquinone laxatives, methocarbamol, nitrofurantoin, and more.6

Understanding a “Clean-Catch”

To give a clean catch urine sample, you will first need to clean the area around your urethra. Start urinating into the toilet for a few seconds, then pass the collection container into your urine stream to collect about one to two ounces of urine.2 Finish urinating and deliver the sample to your doctor as directed.

Preparation for Males vs. Females

Preparation for males is very straightforward. Simply wipe the tip of the penis with a cleansing pad and follow instructions on how to get a clean catch.

Getting a clean catch from women is a little different, as you’ll need to ensure that the vaginal area is cleaned well. Using a special cleansing wipe that your doctor will give you, wipe the genital area around the urethra, including the external labia, from front to back.5 When catching the sample, it’s recommended to continue spreading the labia to avoid any cross contamination.5

In rare cases, your urologist or doctor may request a urinalysis through the assistance of a catheter to ensure the most accurate results.

Understanding Your Results

Getting a urinalysis is not a definitive way to get a diagnosis; you will need to take follow up tests to further understand any abnormalities in your results. There are many ways to interpret the results of a urinalysis, so make sure that you stay in contact with your doctor post-testing. When your urinalysis results come back, you will review any problems with your urologist.

To better understand urinalysis results, your doctor will correlate them with your symptoms, abnormalities, and other follow up tests.4

Slight deviations from normal are usually not cause for concern. The larger the amounts of glucose, protein, red blood cells, etc., present in your urine, the more likely that there is a problem.4 The same can be said for the opposite. Just because your urinalysis comes back normal, doesn't mean that there isn’t something going on. If you’re having other symptoms, make sure to communicate with your doctor openly and honestly to ensure a proper diagnosis. Follow up tests often include blood tests, imaging tests, metabolic panels, blood count, a urine culture, or a live or renal panel.6

If you don’t have any additional symptoms, but received abnormal results from your urinalysis, your doctor may not require follow up testing.6 Without the presence of additional symptoms, abnormal urinalysis results could be caused by food, drink, fever, stress, or even exercise.

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned or if you have any other questions.

Conclusion

Getting a urinalysis is a routine part of many regular health check ups. It is a non-invasive medical test that can help you stay healthy and find the treatment you need. If you have any signs or symptoms discussed in this article, call your urologist today. If you currently have longstanding urology problems, or need supplies or educational resources, visit our educational support page or our product selection guide. Byram is a full-service urological care supplier and offers a wide selection of high quality urological supplies that are discreetly delivered to your home. We also offer a team of knowledgeable urological customer service specialists to help answer questions and offer you personalized, confidential services.

 

Sources:

1https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-urinalysis#1

2https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/urinalysis/about/pac-20384907

3https://www.kidneyfund.org/kidney-disease/kidney-problems/blood-in-urine.html

4https://labtestsonline.org/tests/urinalysis

5https://www.medicinenet.com/urinalysis/article.htm

6https://www.healthline.com/health/urinalysis#preparation

 

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