A urinalysis is a test of your urine. A urinalysis is used to detect and manage a wide range of disorders, such as urinary tract infections, kidney disease and diabetes.
A urinalysis involves checking the appearance, concentration and content of urine. Abnormal urinalysis results may point to a disease or illness.
For example, a urinary tract infection can make urine look cloudy instead of clear. Increased levels of protein in urine can be a sign of kidney disease. Unusual urinalysis results often require more testing to uncover the source of the problem.
A urinalysis is a common test that's done for several reasons:
Other tests, such as pregnancy testing and drug screenings, also may rely on a urine sample, but these tests look for substances that aren't included in a typical urinalysis. For example, pregnancy testing measures a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). Drug screenings detect specific drugs or their metabolic products, depending on the purpose of the testing.
If your urine is being tested only for a urinalysis, you can eat and drink normally before the test. If you're having other tests at the same time, you may need to fast for a certain amount of time before the test. Your doctor will give you specific instructions.
Many drugs, including nonprescription medications and supplements, can affect the results of a urinalysis. Before a urinalysis, tell your doctor about any medications, vitamins or other supplements you're taking.
Depending on your situation, you may collect a urine sample at home or at your doctor's office. Your doctor will provide a container for the urine sample. You may be asked to collect the sample first thing in the morning because at that time your urine is more concentrated, and abnormal results may be more obvious.
To get the most accurate results, the sample may need to be collected midstream, using a clean-catch method. This method involves the following steps:
In some cases, your doctor may insert a thin, flexible tube (catheter) through the urinary tract opening and into the bladder to collect the urine sample.
The urine sample is sent to a lab for analysis. You can return to your usual activities immediately.
For a urinalysis, your urine sample is evaluated in three ways: visual exam, dipstick test and microscopic exam.
A lab technician examines the urine's appearance. Urine is typically clear. Cloudiness or an unusual odor may indicate a problem, such as an infection.
Blood in the urine may make it look red or brown. Urine color can be influenced by what you've just eaten. For example, beets or rhubarb may add a red tint to your urine.
A dipstick — a thin, plastic stick with strips of chemicals on it — is placed in the urine to detect abnormalities. The chemical strips change color if certain substances are present or if their levels are above normal. A dipstick test checks for:
During this exam, several drops of urine are viewed with a microscope. If any of the following are observed in above-average levels, additional testing may be necessary:
A urinalysis alone usually doesn't provide a definite diagnosis. Depending on the reason your doctor recommended this test, abnormal results may or may not require follow-up.
Your doctor may evaluate the urinalysis results along with those of other tests — or order additional tests — to determine next steps.
For example, if you are otherwise healthy and have no signs or symptoms of illness, results slightly above normal on a urinalysis may not be a cause for concern and follow-up may not be needed. However, if you've been diagnosed with a kidney or urinary tract disease, elevated levels may indicate a need to change your treatment plan.
For specifics about what your urinalysis results mean, talk with your doctor.