What is a urinalysis?

A urinalysis is a diagnostic test that examines your urine to diagnose medical conditions such as urinary tract infections, kidney problems or diabetes.

When is a urinalysis performed?

A urinalysis may be ordered for several reasons including:

  • Part of your routine medical exam
    Your doctor may order a urinalysis as a part of a routine checkup to screen for diseases such as liver disease, kidney disease or diabetes.
  • Diagnose a medical condition
    A urinalysis can determine the cause of your symptoms such as abdominal pain, back pain, blood in the urine or burning while urinating.
  • Monitor a urinary condition
    Your doctor may order a urinalysis to monitor a medical condition such as kidney disease or a urinary tract disease.
  • Diagnose pregnancy hormone
    Your doctor may order a urinalysis to test for the pregnancy hormone - human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG).
  • Drug screenings
    Your doctor can also order a urinalysis to detect illegal drugs in a person’s system.

What to expect during a urinalysis

A urine sample may be taken at home or in the doctor’s office. If your doctor asks you to take a home urine test, he or she may need to get a sample early in the morning when the urine is most concentrated.

To prepare for the test, you will be asked to clean the urinary opening. You should begin urinating and after a few seconds start collecting the urine in a collection container. Your doctor needs at least 1 ounce of urine for accurate analysis. You need to deliver the sample to your doctor within one hour of when it was collected.

If you are unable to urinate on your own, your doctor may collect a sample through a catheter.

During the analysis, your tech will evaluate your urine for:

  • Color - does it have blood or other substances in it
  • Appearance - whether it is cloudy or clear
  • Small - does it have a foul-smelling odor
  • pH level - how acidic the urine is
  • Any substances that should not be in the urine such as protein, glucose, ketones and bilirubin
  • Bacteria or other germs

Recovery from a urinalysis

You will go home after the test and resume your daily activities. In some cases, your doctor can give you results right away.

Results from a urinalysis

A lab technician will evaluate your urine sample with a visual exam, dipstick test or microscopic exam.

  • Visual exam
    During a visual exam, your technician will look for cloudiness, abnormal color or an unusual odor that may indicate a problem.
  • Dipstick test
    During a dipstick test, a dipstick is placed in your urine. The test checks for acidity, concentration, protein, sugar, ketones, evidence of infection, bilirubin or blood.
  • Microscopic exam
    During a microscopic exam, your urine is examined under a microscope for abnormal levels of white blood cells, red blood cells, or bacteria.

If your results are abnormal, your doctor may order additional tests after the results of the urinalysis come back.

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