A urine pH test checks the acidity or alkalinity of your urine. High or low levels can indicate various medical problems. Depending on the results, you can make lifestyle changes and get the proper treatment.
In short, your urine pH is an indicator of your overall health and gives a doctor important clues as to what’s going on in your body. In this article, we’ll go over what a normal urine pH level looks like, as well as when you need to test it, and look at the test itself.
A neutral pH is 7.0. The average urine sample tests at about 6.0, but typical urine pH may range from 4.5–8.0.
The higher the number, the more basic your urine is. The lower the number, the more acidic your urine is.
Kidney stones tend to form in a highly acidic or basic environment, so a doctor may test your urine to determine the likelihood that you’ll develop kidney stones. These small masses of minerals can collect in the kidneys and cause pain as they prevent urine from passing through your kidneys and urinary system.
Certain medications can affect your urine pH too. A doctor may order the urine pH level test to determine whether your medications are making your urine too acidic.
The urine pH level test can also help a doctor determine the best medication to prescribe when you have a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Prior to testing, a doctor may ask you to stop taking certain medications or remedies known to affect your urine pH. Examples include:
- acetazolamide, which is used to treat glaucoma, epilepsy, and other disorders
- ammonium chloride, which is an ingredient in some cough medications
- methenamine mandelate, which is used to treat UTIs
- potassium citrate (Urocit-K), which is used to treat gout and kidney stones
- sodium bicarbonate (or baking soda), which is used to treat heartburn
- thiazide diuretics, which are used to treat high blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack
The foods you eat affect your urine pH as well, and you want the test to be as accurate as possible in predicting your typical urine pH level. The test will help your doctor identify the cause of the actual changes in your urine pH. But don’t make changes to your diet prior to the urine pH level test unless directed to by a doctor.
To get the best results, the urine pH test requires obtaining a clean-catch urine sample.
The clean-catch method involves cleaning the genital area before urination and then collecting urine midstream. This method helps eliminate certain organisms and pathogens that might affect your urine sample.
The doctor will give you a cup to urinate into. Don’t touch the inner portion of the cup and be sure to not let anything but urine into the cup in order to avoid contaminating the sample.
After urinating using the clean-catch method, give the cup to the appropriate medical staff. They’ll send your sample to a laboratory as quickly as possible to ensure the most accurate results.
A laboratory will test your urine pH and return the results.
If your urine sample has a lower-than-normal pH, this could indicate an environment conducive to kidney stones. Other conditions that prefer an acidic environment are:
- diabetic ketoacidosis, which occurs when ketones build up in the body
A higher-than-normal urine pH could indicate:
- gastric suctioning (or stomach pumping), which can take away stomach acids
- obstruction of the pylorus, which is the opening between the stomach and small intestine
- kidney failure
- renal tubular acidosis, which occurs when kidney damage prevents the kidneys from removing acid from the urine
- respiratory alkalosis, which occurs when your carbon dioxide blood levels and oxygen blood levels are imbalanced
Your diet may also determine how acidic or alkaline your urine is. For example, if you eat a diet low in meat and high in fruits and vegetables, you’re more likely to have alkaline urine. People who consume higher amounts of meat are more likely to have acidic urine.
There are no risks associated with the urine pH level test. You can typically resume your daily activities following the test.
Your doctor may recommend some changes to your diet if your urine pH is too high or too low.