Epithelial Cells in Urine

What is an epithelial cells in urine test?

Epithelial cells are a type of cell that lines the surfaces of your body. They are found on your skin, blood vessels, urinary tract, and organs. An epithelial cells in urine test looks at urine under a microscope to see if the number of your epithelial cells is in the normal range. It’s normal to have a small amount of epithelial cells in your urine. A large amount may indicate an infection, kidney disease, or other serious medical condition.

Other names: microscopic urine analysis, microscopic examination of urine, urine test, urine analysis, UA

What is it used for?

An epithelial cells in urine test is a part of a urinalysis, a test that measures different substances in your urine. A urinalysis may include a visual examination of your urine sample, tests for certain chemicals, and an examination of urine cells under a microscope. An epithelial cells in urine test is part of a microscopic exam of urine.

Why do I need an epithelial cells in urine test?

Your health care provider may have ordered an epithelial cells in urine test as part of your regular checkup or if your visual or chemical urine tests showed abnormal results. You may also need this test if you have symptoms of a urinary or kidney disorder. These symptoms may include:

  • Frequent and/or painful urination
  • Abdominal pain
  • Back pain

What happens during an epithelial cells in urine test?

Your health care provider will need to collect a sample of your urine. During your office visit, you will receive a container to collect the urine and special instructions to make sure that the sample is sterile. These instructions are often called the “clean catch method.” The clean catch method includes the following steps:

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Clean your genital area with a cleansing pad given to you by your provider. Men should wipe the tip of their penis. Women should open their labia and clean from front to back.
  3. Start to urinate into the toilet.
  4. Move the collection container under your urine stream.
  5. Collect at least an ounce or two of urine into the container. The container will have markings to indicate the amounts.
  6. Finish urinating into the toilet.
  7. Return the sample container as instructed by your health care provider.

Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?

You don’t need any special preparations for the test. If your health care provider has ordered other urine or blood tests, you may need to fast (not eat or drink) for several hours before the test. Your health care provider will let you know if there are any special instructions to follow.

Are there any risks to the test?

There is no known risk to having the test.

What do the results mean?

Results are often reported as an approximate amount, such as “few,” moderate,” or “many” cells. “Few” cells are generally considered in the normal range. “Moderate” or “many” cells may indicate a medical condition such as:

  • Urinary tract infection
  • Yeast infection
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Certain types of cancer

If your results are not in the normal range, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a medical condition that requires treatment. You may need more tests before you can get a diagnosis. To learn what your results mean, talk to your health care provider.

Is there anything else I need to know about an epithelial cells in urine test?

There are three types of epithelial cells that line the urinary tract. They are called transitional cells, renal tubular cells, and squamous cells. If there are squamous epithelial cells in your urine, it may mean your sample was contaminated. This means that the sample contains cells from the urethra (in men) or the vaginal opening (in women). It can happen if you do not clean well enough when using the clean catch method.

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