How is it used?
The urinalysis is a set of screening tests that can detect some common diseases. It may be used to screen for and/or help diagnose conditions such as a urinary tract infections, kidney disorders, liver problems, diabetes or other metabolic conditions, to name a few.
A urinalysis is comprised of several chemical, microscopic and visual examinations used to detect cells, cell fragments and substances such as crystals or casts in the urine associated with the various conditions listed above. It can detect abnormalities that might require follow-up investigation and additional testing. Often, substances such as protein or glucose will begin to appear in the urine before people are aware that they may have a problem.
In people diagnosed with acute or chronic conditions, such as kidney disease or diabetes, the urinalysis may be used in conjunction with other tests, such as urine albumin, to follow treatment.
When is it ordered?
A urinalysis may sometimes be ordered when a person has a routine wellness exam, is admitted to the hospital, or will undergo surgery, or when a woman has a pregnancy checkup.
A urinalysis will likely be ordered when a person sees a healthcare practitioner complaining of symptoms of a urinary tract infection or other urinary system problem, such as kidney disease. Some signs and symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Back pain
- Painful or frequent urination
- Blood in the urine
- Testing may also be ordered at regular intervals when monitoring certain conditions over time.
What does the test result mean?
Urinalysis results can have many interpretations. Abnormal findings are a warning that something may be wrong and should be evaluated further. A healthcare practitioner must correlate the urinalysis results with a person’s symptoms and clinical findings and search for the causes of abnormal findings with other targeted tests, such as a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP), complete blood count (CBC), renal panel, liver panel, or urine culture (for urinary tract infection).
Generally, the greater the concentration of the atypical substance, such as greatly increased amounts of glucose, protein, or red blood cells, the more likely it is that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. However, the results do not tell the healthcare practitioner exactly what the cause of the finding is or whether it is a temporary or chronic condition.
A normal urinalysis does not guarantee that there is no illness. Some people will not release elevated amounts of a substance early in a disease process, and some will release them sporadically during the day, which means that they may be missed by a single urine sample. In very dilute urine, small quantities of chemicals may be undetectable.
Is there anything else I should know?
There are many factors that can affect or interfere with the tests that comprise a urinalysis. If instructed to do so, it is important to follow the directions carefully for a “clean-catch” sample. Give a complete history to your healthcare practitioner, including any prescribed or over-the-counter medications or supplements you may be taking. If you are a women, be sure to tell your healthcare practitioner whether you are menstruating.