Urine analysis is commonly called urinalysis. You provide a urine specimen to your doctor, who in turn sends it to a lab to be analyzed. The most routine type of urinalysis involves a dipstick test in which an indicator stick is dipped into the urine. Multiple tests are performed using a single indicator stick. The results of these tests provide important clues for a number of different conditions and provide guideposts for further testing and treatment.
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Urinalysis typically involves testing the urine for protein. According to the National Kidney Foundation, the presence of protein in urine is abnormal and is a red flag for kidney disease.
If urinalysis is performed using the dipstick test, results are reported back as "Neg.," "Trace," "+1," "+2" and so forth, with the amount of urine protein increasing in step with the higher reported value. "Neg" and "Trace" are considered normal.
If levels of urine protein are abnormally high, doctors usually order that the test be repeated. If subsequent tests are also abnormal, a referral to a nephrologist usually occurs.
Red Blood Cells
Abnormal levels of red blood cells in the urine also raise the possibility of kidney disease. While some patients are aware of blood in their urine, many patients are unaware until they get an abnormal urinalysis result.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, abnormally high levels of red blood cells are associated with more than 100 different diseases. These include "abnormal structures in the urinary tract, inherited diseases, mineral imbalances in the urine and glomerulonephritis."
Urinalysis also tests for glucose in the urine. Excess glucose in the urine is called glycosuria. When urinalysis results are abnormally high for glucose, diabetes mellitus might be a problem. An on-line library from the University of Utah Mercer Medical School warns that the lack of glucose in the urine does not necessary mean diabetes is not a worry because some urinalysis tests do not test for galactose and fructose, which are also sugars.
Abnormally high levels of nitrites or leukocyte esterase suggest that a urinary tract infection might be present.
Abnormally high nitrites suggest that the infection might be due to a class of bacteria called gram negative rods. This class includes E. coli. Abnormal results for leukocyte esterase suggest the presence of white blood cells in the urine, such as usually accompany urinary tract infections.
Unless the test suggests something that is immediately treatable, such as a urinary tract infection, tests are often repeated if the initial results are abnormal. In some instances, the problem may resolve. However, if lab values continue to be out of range, additional testing may be necessary. For example, if very high levels of urine protein and red blood cells are present, it would be customary to begin a work-up for kidney disease.