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Urinalysis

Definition

Urinalysis is the physical, chemical, and microscopic examination of urine. It involves a number of tests to detect and measure various compounds that pass through the urine.

Alternative Names

Urine appearance and color; Routine urine test

Why the Test is Performed

A urinalysis may be done:

Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:

How the Test is Performed

A urine sample is needed. Your health care provider will tell you what type of urine sample is needed. For information on how to collect a urine sample, see:

There are three basic steps to a complete urinalysis:

Physical color and appearance:

  • What does the urine look like to the naked eye?
  • Is it clear or cloudy?
  • Is it pale or dark yellow or another color?

The urine specific gravity test reveals how concentrated or dilute the urine is.

Microscopic appearance:

  • The urine sample is examined under a microscope. This is done to look at cells, urine crystals, mucus, and other substances, and to identify any bacteria or other microorganisms that might be present.

Chemical appearance:

  • A special stick ("dipstick") tests for various substances in the urine. The stick contains little pads of chemicals that change color when they come in contact with the substances of interest.

See also: Urine chemistry

How to Prepare for the Test

Certain medicines change the color of urine, but this is not a sign of disease. Your doctor may tell you to stop taking any medicines that can affect test results.

Medicines that can change your urine color include:

  • Chloroquine
  • Iron supplements
  • Levodopa
  • Nitrofurantoin
  • Phenazopyridine
  • Phenothiazines
  • Phenytoin
  • Riboflavin
  • Triamterene

How the Test Will Feel

The test involves only normal urination, and there is no discomfort.

Risks

There are no risks.

Considerations

If a home test is used, the person reading the results must be able to distinguish between different colors, since the results are interpreted using a color chart.

Normal Results

Normal urine may vary in color from almost colorless to dark yellow. Some foods (like beets and blackberries) may turn the urine a red color.

Usually, glucose, ketones, protein, bilirubin, are not detectable in urine. The following are not normally found in urine:

  • Hemoglobin
  • Nitrites
  • Red blood cells
  • White blood cells

Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

What Abnormal Results Mean

For specific results, see the individual test article:


Review Date: 3/14/2009
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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