What is a Urine Test?
A urine test, also known as urinalysis or UA, is a test of your urine to detect and manage a wide range of conditions, such as urinary tract infections, kidney disease, and diabetes. The urine sample may be evaluated for color, clarity, odor, pH, and the levels of different components such as proteins and glucose. A urine test helps detect infection or diseases of the urinary tract, and the outcome of the treatment.
Indications for a Urine Test
In general, your physician may recommend a urine test for the following purposes:
- As a preventative screening at the time of a pregnancy checkup
- As part of a routine physical or medical exam
- Before surgery
Your physician may also recommend a urine test if they presume that you have certain disorders, such as:
- Urinary tract infection
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
If you have already been diagnosed of any of these disorders, your physician may utilize a urine test to verify the progress of treatments or the disorder itself.
Your physician may also want to do a urine test if you are experiencing certain symptoms, such as:
- Painful urination
- Blood in your urine
- Back pain
- Abdominal pain
Preparation for a Urine Test
Prior to the urine test, make sure to drink plenty of water so that you can provide a sufficient amount of urine sample. Nonetheless, do not consume excessive amounts of water as it may cause faulty results. One or two additional glasses of fluid, which may include milk or juice if your diet permits, is all you require on the day of the test. You do not have to fast or change your diet for the test.
In addition, inform your physician about any supplements or medications you are taking. Some of these that can impact the results of your urine test include:
- Anthraquinone laxatives
- Vitamin C supplements
Some other drugs can impact the results of the urine test as well. Hence, inform your physician about any substances you use before your urine test.
Process Involved in a Urine Test
As part of the urine test process, you will be asked by your physician to give your urine sample at his/her office, hospital, or specialized testing facility. You will be provided with a plastic cup or container to take to the bathroom for you to urinate into the container.
In some instances, you may be asked to provide a clean catch urine sample. This technique aids in preventing bacteria from the vagina or penis from getting into the urine sample and involves cleaning around your urethra with a premoistened cleaning wipe provided. You need to urinate a small quantity into the toilet first and then collect the mid-stream sample in the plastic cup or container. Do not touch the inside of the cup/container so that you do not transfer bacteria from your hands to the sample.
Once you are finished, place the lid on the container and clean your hands. You will be asked to either bring the container out of the bathroom or leave it in a designated place inside the bathroom.
Methods of Urine Testing
After obtaining your sample, your physician will then utilize one or more of the following techniques to examine your urine:
Dipstick Test: For the dipstick test, your physician will put a chemically treated plastic stick into your urine sample. The stick changes color based on the presence of certain substances. This can assist your physician to check for:
- Bilirubin, a product of red blood cell death
- Changes in acidity or pH levels
- Specific gravity or concentration
High concentrations of particles in your urine can be a sign of dehydration, high pH levels can be a sign of kidney or urinary tract issues, and any presence of sugar can indicate diabetes.
Microscopic Exam: In the microscopic exam, your physician examines drops of your urine under a microscope to check for:
- Epithelial cells, which may be a sign of a tumor
- Infectious yeasts or bacteria
- Crystals that may suggest kidney stones
- Irregularities in your white or red blood cells may indicate infections, blood disorders, kidney disease, or bladder cancer
Visual Exam: Your physician can also look for abnormalities in the sample, such as:
- Abnormal odors
- Clouded appearance, which can suggest an infection
- Brownish or reddish appearance, which can suggest blood in your urine
Obtaining the Results
When your urine tests are available, your physician will review them with you. If your results look irregular, there are two alternatives.
If you have been previously diagnosed with urinary tract problems, kidney problems, or other associated conditions, your physician may order another urine test or additional tests to identify the cause of the abnormality. These tests can include:
- Urine culture
- Blood tests
- Complete blood count
- Liver or renal panel
- Comprehensive metabolic panel
If you have no other symptoms of an underlying disorder and a physical exam indicates that your overall health is normal, your physician may not order a follow-up.