What is a urinalysis?
A urinalysis is a urine-screening test. Doctors use it to discover signs of common diseases, medical conditions and other metabolic problems, such as urinary tract infections, liver problems and diabetes.
Urinalysis detects cells, cell fragments, or certain substances, like crystals, protein, or glucose (sugar), in your urine. These substances point to a possible problem, like a urinary tract infection or diabetes. Your doctor may perform additional testing if your urine contains cell fragments or other elements not typically found there. Some of these substances, like glucose, may appear in your urine before you know there is a problem.
Most urine specimens are collected using the “clean catch” method. Sometimes, specimens are collected using urinary catheters. For many people, urinalysis results are available during the same appointment with their doctor.
When is a urinalysis performed?
You may have a urinalysis as part of your yearly wellness examination. The test also can help keep track of illnesses or medical conditions you already have, such as diabetes, kidney or liver disease and some blood diseases.
A urinalysis is also performed if you are admitted to the hospital or if you are scheduled for surgery. For women, urinalysis tests are performed if pregnancy is suspected, or during pregnancy checkups.
Urinalysis can provide answers when you have certain symptoms of disease or injury. It is especially helpful if you have symptoms of a urinary tract infection. Your doctor may choose to order a urinalysis if you have symptoms such as:
Beyond a urinary tract infection, these symptoms may indicate the presence of more serious problems, such as kidney disease or bladder injury.
How is a urinalysis performed?
A urinalysis is usually performed in your doctor’s office using the “clean catch” method, which is different for men and women. This method is intended to help prevent contamination of your urine specimen with cells from your genitals.
Your doctor will give you a specimen cup, sterile wipes, and specific instructions for collecting your urine sample. Your doctor will tell you what to do with your urine sample after you’ve collected it.
It is important to wash your hands with soap and water before collecting your urine sample. Try to collect a sample using urine that has been in your bladder for two to three hours.
For women and girls
Start by sitting on the toilet with your legs spread apart. Using two fingers, spread your labia open. Then, use one sterile wipe to clean the inner folds of your labia, wiping from front to back. Use another sterile wipe to clean over your urethra, the opening where urine flows out of your body.
Once you have cleaned your labia, urinate a small amount into the toilet. Stop the flow of urine, and hold the specimen cup a few inches away from your urethra. Then, urinate into the cup, filling it about half full. You may then finish urinating into the toilet.
For men and boys
First, use a sterile wipe to clean the head of your penis. Men who are uncircumcised should first pull back the foreskin to ensure a thorough cleaning.
Then, urinate a small amount into the toilet. Stop the flow of urine, and hold the specimen cup a few inches from your urethra, the opening where urine flows out of your body. Fill your specimen cup about half full, then finish urinating into the toilet.
Results and Follow-Up
What happens if my urinalysis results are not normal?
If your urinalysis results are not normal, your doctor may order further tests to determine the cause of the problem. A urine test screens for problems, but it does not identify the source of any unusual results. Your doctor may order tests, like blood tests, to further investigate any abnormal urinalysis results.
Also, keep in mind that urine test results can be influenced by certain medications, nutrition supplements, or how well you performed the clean catch technique. Let your doctor know about any medications or supplements you take before your urinalysis, as well as what symptoms you are having. Certain medications, such as some muscle relaxers and Vitamin C, can distort your urinalysis results. If you are a woman, tell your doctor if you are menstruating before collecting your urine sample.