Patient Test Information

Urinalysis

Also known as:

Urine Test; Urine Analysis; UA

Formal name:

Urinalysis

Related tests:

Urine Culture; Urine Protein; BUN; Creatinine; Creatinine Clearance; Urine Albumin; eGFR; Kidney Stone Analysis; Kidney Stone Risk Panel; Glucose Tests; Renal Panel; Bilirubin

Board approvedAll content on Lab Tests Online has been reviewed and approved by our Editorial Review Board.

Why Get Tested?

To screen for, help diagnose and/or monitor several diseases and conditions, such as kidney disorders or urinary tract infections (UTIs)

When to Get Tested?

When you have symptoms, such as abdominal pain, back pain, frequent or painful urination; sometimes as part of a health examination, pregnancy check-up, hospital admission, or pre-surgical work-up

Sample Required?

One to two ounces of urine–a sufficient sample is required for accurate results; sometimes you may be directed to collect a sample using a "clean-catch" technique: women should spread the labia of the vagina and clean from front to back; men should wipe the tip of the penis. Start to urinate, let some urine fall into the toilet, then collect one to two ounces of urine in the container provided, then void the rest into the toilet.

Test Preparation Needed?

None

How is it used?

The urinalysis is a set of screening tests that can detect some common diseases. It may be used to screen for and/or help diagnose conditions such as a urinary tract infections, kidney disorders, liver problems, diabetes or other metabolic conditions, to name a few.

A urinalysis is comprised of several chemical, microscopic and visual examinations used to detect cells, cell fragments and substances such as crystals or casts in the urine associated with the various conditions listed above. It can detect abnormalities that might require follow-up investigation and additional testing. Often, substances such as protein or glucose will begin to appear in the urine before people are aware that they may have a problem.

In people diagnosed with acute or chronic conditions, such as kidney disease or diabetes, the urinalysis may be used in conjunction with other tests, such as urine albumin, to follow treatment.

When is it ordered?

A urinalysis may sometimes be ordered when a person has a routine wellness exam, is admitted to the hospital, or will undergo surgery, or when a woman has a pregnancy checkup.

A urinalysis will likely be ordered when a person sees a healthcare practitioner complaining of symptoms of a urinary tract infection or other urinary system problem, such as Kidney disease. Some signs and symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Painful or frequent urination
  • Blood in the urine

Testing may also be ordered at regular intervals when monitoring certain conditions over time.

What does the test result mean?

Urinalysis results can have many interpretations. Abnormal findings are a warning that something may be wrong and should be evaluated further. A healthcare practitioner must correlate the urinalysis results with a person's symptoms and clinical findings and search for the causes of abnormal findings with other targeted tests, such as a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP), complete blood count (CBC), renal panel, liver panel, or urine culture (for urinary tract infection).

Generally, the greater the concentration of the atypical substance, such as greatly increased amounts of glucose, protein, or red blood cells, the more likely it is that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. However, the results do not tell the healthcare practitioner exactly what the cause of the finding is or whether it is a temporary or chronic condition.

A normal urinalysis does not guarantee that there is no illness. Some people will not release elevated amounts of a substance early in a disease process, and some will release them sporadically during the day, which means that they may be missed by a single urine sample. In very dilute urine, small quantities of chemicals may be undetectable.

For additional details on what specific results may mean, click on the links below:

  • Visual examination
  • Chemical examination
  • Microscopic examination

samplereporticonTo see an example of a urinalysis lab report, see this sample report.

Is there anything else I should know?

There are many factors that can affect or interfere with the tests that comprise a urinalysis. If instructed to do so, it is important to follow the directions carefully for a "clean-catch" sample. Give a complete history to your healthcare practitioner, including any prescribed or over-the-counter medications or supplements you may be taking. If you are a women, be sure to tell your healthcare practitioner whether you are menstruating.

What is being tested?

A urinalysis is a group of physical, chemical, and microscopic tests. The tests detect and/or measure several substances in the urine, such as byproducts of normal and abnormal metabolism, cells, cellular fragments, and bacteria.

Thumbnail diagram of normal urinary tract

Urine is produced by the kidneys, two fist-sized organs located on either side of the spine at the bottom of the ribcage. The kidneys filter wastes out of the blood, help regulate the amount of water in the body, and conserve proteins, electrolytes, and other compounds that the body can reuse. Anything that is not needed is eliminated in the urine, traveling from the kidneys through ureters to the bladder and then through the urethra and out of the body. Urine is generally yellow and relatively clear, but each time a person urinates, the color, quantity, concentration, and content of the urine will be slightly different because of varying constituents.

Many disorders may be detected in their early stages by identifying substances that are not normally present in the urine and/or by measuring abnormal levels of certain substances. Some examples include glucose, protein, bilirubin, red blood cells, white blood cells, crystals, and bacteria. They may be present because:

  1. There is an elevated level of the substance in the blood and the body responds by trying to eliminate the excess in the urine.
  2. Kidney disease is present.
  3. There is a urinary tract infection present, as in the case of bacteria and white blood cells.

A complete urinalysis consists of three distinct testing phases:

  1. Visual examination, which evaluates the urine's color and clarity
  2. Chemical examination, which tests chemically for about 9 substances that provide valuable information about health and disease and determines the concentration of the urine
  3. Microscopic examination, which identifies and counts the type of cells, casts, crystals, and other components such as bacteria and mucus that can be present in urine

A microscopic examination is typically performed when there is an abnormal finding on the visual or chemical examination, or if a healthcare practitioner specifically orders it.

Abnormal findings on a urinalysis may prompt repeat testing to see if the results are still abnormal and/or may be followed by additional urine and blood tests to help establish a diagnosis.

How is the sample collected for testing?

One to two ounces of urine is collected in a clean container. A sufficient sample is required for accurate results.

Urine for a urinalysis can be collected at any time. In some cases, a first morning sample may be requested because it is more concentrated and more likely to detect abnormalities.

Sometimes, you may be asked to collect a "clean-catch" urine sample. For this, it is important to clean the genital area before collecting the urine. Bacteria and cells from the surrounding skin can contaminate the sample and interfere with the interpretation of test results. With women, menstrual blood and vaginal secretions can also be a source of contamination. Women should spread the labia of the vagina and clean from front to back; men should wipe the tip of the penis. Start to urinate, let some urine fall into the toilet, then collect one to two ounces of urine in the container provided, then void the rest into the toilet.

A urine sample will only be useful for a urinalysis if taken to the healthcare provider's office or laboratory for processing within a short period of time. If it will be longer than an hour between collection and transport time, then the urine should be refrigerated or a preservative may be added.

NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.

Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.

Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?

No advance test preparation is needed.

  1. Is the time of day a factor when collecting a urine sample?

    Because this is a general screening test, time of collection is usually not important, although a first morning void may be preferred because it is more concentrated. However, if your healthcare provider is looking for a specific finding, you may be asked to collect a sample at a specific time.

  2. Can a urinalysis be done in my healthcare practitioner's office?

    Many healthcare providers' offices and clinics can perform the visual and chemical examinations of urine. Some may also be able to provide microscopic examinations. Sometimes, if abnormal results are found on the visual or chemical exams, your urine sample may be sent to a laboratory for the microscopic exam. Alternatively, your sample may be sent to a laboratory for a full urinalysis.

  3. Are there home test kits available to test my urine?

    Kits to perform a full urinalysis are not available because the test requires special equipment and technical skills. However, some commercial testing strips can be purchased at a pharmacy to perform part of the Chemical examination, such as urine pH, urine glucose, and urine ketones.