Skip navigation

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

URL of this page:

Epithelial Cells in Urine

What is an Epithelial Cells in Urine Test?

Epithelial cells are a type of cell that covers the inside and outside of the surfaces of your body. They are found on your skin, blood vessels, and organs, including your urinary tract.

An epithelial cells in urine test looks at a sample of your urine (pee) under a microscope to count the number of epithelial cells in your urine. It's normal to have a small number of certain types of epithelial cells in urine. A large number may indicate a urinary tract 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. It may be part of a regular check-up, or your health care provider may order the test if you have signs of a urinary tract problem.

A urinalysis may include a visual check of your urine sample, tests for certain chemicals and examination under a microscope to look for certain types of cells. 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 provider may have ordered an epithelial cells in urine test as part of your regular checkup or if the results of your visual or chemical urine tests weren't normal. You may also need this test if you have symptoms of a urinary or kidney disorder. These symptoms may include:

What happens during an epithelial cells in urine test?

You will need to give a urine sample of your urine for the test. A health care professional may give you a cleansing wipe, a small container, and instructions for how to use the "clean catch" method to collect your urine sample. It's important to follow these instructions so that germs from your skin don't get into the sample:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water and dry them.
  2. Open the container without touching the inside.
  3. Clean your genital area with the cleansing wipe:
    • For a penis, wipe the entire head (end) of the penis. If you have a foreskin, pull it back first.
    • For a vagina, separate the labia (the folds of skin around the vagina) and wipe the inner sides from front to back.
  4. Urinate into the toilet for a few seconds and then stop the flow. Start urinating again, this time into the container. Don't let the container touch your body.
  5. Collect at least an ounce or two of urine into the container. The container should have markings to show how much urine is needed.
  6. Finish urinating into the toilet.
  7. Put the cap on the container and return it as instructed.

If you have hemorrhoids that bleed or are having your menstrual period, tell your provider before your test.

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

You don't need any special preparations for the test. If your provider has ordered other urine or blood tests, you may need to fast (not eat or drink) for several hours before the test. Your 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 a general amount, such as "few," moderate," or "many" cells. A normal result is typically "few" cells. "Moderate" or "many" cells may be a sign of a medical condition, such as:

If your results are not normal, it doesn't always mean that you have a medical condition that needs treatment. You may need more tests before your provider can make a diagnosis. To learn what your results mean, talk with your provider.

Learn more about laboratory tests, references ranges, understanding results.

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 (kidney) 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 another part of the body. This can happen if you do not clean your genital area well enough when collecting your urine sample with the clean catch method.


  1. Ask a Biologist [Internet]. Tempe (AZ): Arizona State University: School of Life Sciences; c2016. Viral Attack: Epithelial Cell [cited 2017 Feb 12]; [about 4 screens]. Available from:
  2. Hinkle J, Cheever K. Brunner & Suddarth's Handbook of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests. 2nd Ed, Kindle. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; c2014. Urinalysis; 509 p.
  3. Johns Hopkins Lupus Center [Internet]. Johns Hopkins Medicine; c2022. Urinalysis [cited 2022 Mar 3]; [about 10 screens]. Available from:
  4. Mayo Clinic [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; c1998–2022. Urinalysis; [cited 2022 Mar 3]; [about 7 screens]. Available from:
  5. Merck Manual Consumer Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co., Inc.; c2022. Urinalysis and Urine Culture [modified 2020 May; cited 2022 Mar 3]; [about 3 screens]. Available from:
  6. National Cancer Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms; epithelial [cited 2022 Mar 3]; [about 1 screens]. Available from:
  7. Rigby D, Gray K. Understanding Urine Testing. Nursing Times [Internet]. 2005 Mar 22 [cited 2017 Feb 12]; 101(12): 60. Available from:
  8. Saint Francis Health System [Internet]. Tulsa (OK): Saint Francis Health System; c2010. Patient Information: Collecting a Clean Catch Urine Sample; [cited 2022 Feb 18]; [about 1 screen]. Available from:
  9. Simerville J, Maxted C, Pahira J. Urinalysis: A Comprehensive Review. American Family Physician [Internet]. 2005 Mar 15 [cited 2017 Feb 12]; 71(6): 1153–62. Available from:
  10. [Internet]. OneCare Media. Seattle (WA); c2022. Urinalysis [modified 2022 Jan 21; cited 2022 Mar 3]; [about 13 screens]. Available from:
  11. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; c2022. Health Encyclopedia: Microscopic Urinalysis [cited 2022 Mar 3]; [about 2 screens]. Available from:

The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.