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.
How the Test is Performed
A urine sample is needed. Your health care provider will tell you what type of urine sample is needed. Two common methods of collecting urine are 24-hour urine collection and clean catch urine specimen.
The sample is sent to a lab, where it is examined for the following:
PHYSICAL COLOR AND APPEARANCE
How the urine sample looks to the naked eye:
- Is it clear or cloudy?
- Is it is pale, or dark yellow, or another color?
The urine sample is examined under a microscope to:
- Check if there are any cells, urine crystals, urinary casts, mucus, and other substances.
- Identify any bacteria or other germs.
CHEMICAL APPEARANCE (urine chemistry)
- A special strip (dipstick) is used to test for substances in the urine sample. The strip has pads of chemicals that change color when they come in contact with substances of interest.
Examples of specific urinalysis tests that may done to check for problems include:
How to Prepare for the Test
Certain medicines change the color of urine, but this is not a sign of disease. Your provider may tell you to stop taking any medicines that can affect test results.
Medicines that can change your urine color include:
- Iron supplements
How the Test will Feel
The test involves only normal urination, and there is no discomfort.
Why the Test is Performed
Normal urine varies in color from almost colorless to dark yellow. Some foods, such as beets and blackberries, may turn urine red.
Usually, glucose, ketones, protein, and bilirubin are not detectable in urine. The following are not normally found in urine:
- Red blood cells
- White blood cells
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your provider about the meaning of your specific test results.
There are no risks.
If a home test is used, the person reading the results must be able to see the difference between colors, because the results are interpreted using a color chart.
Urine appearance and color; Routine urine test
McPherson RA, Ben-Ezra J. Basic examination of urine. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 28.
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Update Date 1/31/2015
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.