Written by Brian Krans
Medically Reviewed by Brenda B. Spriggs, MD, MPH, FACP

What is a Urinalysis?

A urinalysis is a laboratory test done to detect problems with your body that can appear in your urine.

Many illnesses and disorders affect how your body removes waste and toxins. The system that takes care of that is broadly called the excretory system, and includes your lungs, kidneys, urinary tract, skin, and bladder. Problems with any of these parts of your body can affect the appearance, concentration, and content of your urine (Mayo).

Urinalysis is not the same as drug screening or pregnancy tests, although all three tests involve a urine sample.

Why Urinalysis Is Done

There are several reasons your doctor may order you to undergo urinalysis.

Urinalysis is often used as pre-emptive screening during pregnancy checkups, prior to surgery, or part of a routine medical exam or physical.

Your doctor may order urinalysis if he or she suspects you of having certain conditions, or you experience certain symptoms, including:

  • abdominal pain
  • back pain
  • blood in the urine
  • diabetes
  • kidney disease
  • liver disease
  • painful urination
  • urinary tract infection

If you’ve been diagnosed with any of these conditions, your doctor may use urinalysis testing to check on the progress of treatments or tracking the progression of a disease.

The Risks of Urinalysis

Urinalysis carries no risks to the patient as it simply requires you to urinate in a cup.

How to Prepare for Urinalysis

One of the best ways to prepare for giving a urine sample is to make sure you drink enough water to provide an adequate sample.

Prior to the test, tell your doctor about any medications or supplements you take as these may affect the results.

How Urinalysis Is Performed

Urinalysis is performed in a laboratory setting. This may be at your doctor’s office, hospital, or specialized testing facility.

You’ll be given a plastic cup. You’ll take the cup to the bathroom. There, in a private setting, you’ll urinate into the cup. If you have too much urine and not enough cup, you can finish urinating in the toilet.

When you’re finished, you’ll place the lid on the cup and wash your hands. You’ll either bring the cup out of the bathroom with you, or leave it in a special box inside the bathroom.

After you’ve provided your sample, your portion of the test is done. The sample will then be sent to a lab, or remain in the hospital if they have the necessary equipment.

The urine sample will be tested by appearance, under a microscope, and with specialized strips treated with chemicals to test for the following:

  • bilirubin, a product of red blood cell death
  • blood
  • concentration
  • leukocytes, nitrates, and other signs of infection
  • sugars
  • pH levels (acidity)

Following Up After a Urinalysis

When the results from your urinalysis are complete, your doctor will review them with you.

Abnormal results from urinalysis typically requires additional screening methods to adequately determine the cause of your problems. This could include blood tests, imaging tests (CT scans, MRI, etc.), or other diagnostic procedures.

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