What a Urine Test Can (and Can’t) Reveal About Your Health

What a Urine Test Can (and Can’t) Reveal About Your Health

Your urine can reveal a lot of valuable information about your health — from just one small sample, a health care provider can diagnose a urinary tract infection (UTI), detect early signs of chronic disease, or find important clues about the nature of worrisome symptoms. 

When you visit American River Urgent Care in Orangevale, California, our team may use a urine test (urinalysis) to confirm a suspected UTI, screen for indications of chronic illness during a routine annual physical exam, or complete a pre-employment or new hire physical through our comprehensive occupational medicine services. 

What’s in a urine sample?

Your kidneys produce urine as they remove waste products, excess fluids, and other substances from your blood. Your urine contains many different clues about the overall state of your body. 

A urinalysis involves checking the content, concentration, and even the appearance of your urine for qualities, substances, and cells that may indicate specific health problems. Examining the visual, chemical, and microscopic aspects of your urine can offer valuable insight about your physical condition. 

Given that various aspects of your health can be analyzed through urinalysis, your doctor at American River Urgent Care uses your symptoms and/or situation to determine which specific screening tests they should conduct in our on-site lab. 

For example, if you come to our walk-in clinic with a suspected UTI, your urine test analysis will be different than it would be for someone who arrives at our office for a physical exam. 

How is a urine test conducted? 

Urinalysis is a three-fold process that includes the following elements of evaluation:

1. Visual assessment

A simple visual assessment of the color, clearness, and overall appearance of your urine can offer several clues about your health, particularly if other components of the analysis provide further context.

Normally, urine is a clear shade of yellow. Certain infections and health conditions can make urine smell foul or appear cloudy, foamy, tinted, or unusually dark.

2. Dipstick test

A dipstick test gathers information about the chemical content of urine. A dipstick is a plastic strip fitted with thin, chemically treated pads that change color when they encounter specific substances. 

This part of urinalysis can measure the acid-base (pH) level in your urine, check for unusually high protein levels, identify even small amounts of glucose (sugar) or ketones, and detect the presence of bilirubin or blood. 

There are specific dipstick tests that can detect substances (nitrites and leukocytes) that are commonly present with UTIs; there are also dipstick tests to detect pregnancy hormones as well as the presence of illicit drugs.

Today’s dipstick tests are highly sensitive; unlike previous tests, they don’t just show the presence of a specific substance — they also reveal whether it’s present in low, moderate, or high amounts.

3. Microscopic exam

The final component of a urinalysis examines a small amount of concentrated urine under a microscope. It aims to detect higher than normal levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, bacteria, or crystals.

What can a urine test reveal?

Urinalysis can definitively diagnose a UTI and provide basic insight into your overall health. It can also offer further clues as to what might be causing worrisome unexplained symptoms like chronic abdominal or back pain, frequent or painful urine, or blood in your urine. 

The results of a urine test may indicate the presence of: 

While urine test results can point to a range of potential medical problems, urinalysis cannot, by itself, diagnose any one of these health concerns. Abnormal urinalysis results indicate the need for further diagnostic testing.

What can’t be revealed by a urine test?

Unless you’ve got a UTI, a urine test alone can’t provide a complete and definite diagnosis. Depending on your reason for having a urinalysis, you may need follow-up testing for unusual results. 

Likewise, getting normal urinalysis results doesn’t mean you don’t have a chronic illness or medical condition. Urine tests don’t always detect early disease, and they don’t work as well if you’re well hydrated and your urine is very diluted. If you have persistent symptoms and your urine test is normal, you may need further testing.

To learn more about the urinalysis services and on-site lab at American River Urgent Care in Orangevale, California, call 916-287-8569 today, click online to schedule a same-day visit at your convenience, or stop in any time during our normal business hours.

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