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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:

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:

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.

References

  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: https://askabiologist.asu.edu/epithelial-cells
  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; c2017. Urinalysis [cited 2017 Feb 12]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://www.hopkinslupus.org/lupus-tests/screening-laboratory-tests/urinalysis/
  4. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2001–2017. Urinalysis: The Test [updated 2016 May 26; cited 2017 Feb 12]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/urinalysis/tab/test
  5. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2001–2017. Urinalysis: The Test Sample [updated 2016 May 26; cited 2017 Feb 12]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/urinalysis/tab/sample/
  6. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2001–2017. Urinalysis: Three Types of Examinations [cited 2017 Feb 12]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/urinalysis/ui-exams/start/2/
  7. Mayo Clinic [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; c1998–2017. Urinalysis: How you prepare; 2016 Oct 9 [cited 2017 Feb 12]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/urinalysis/details/how-you-prepare/ppc-20255388
  8. Merck Manual Consumer Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co., Inc.; c2016. Urinalysis [cited 2017 Feb 12]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/kidney-and-urinary-tract-disorders/diagnosis-of-kidney-and-urinary-tract-disorders/urinalysis
  9. National Cancer Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms; epithelial [cited 2017 Feb 12]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms?search=epithelial
  10. Rigby D, Gray K. Understanding Urine Testing. Nursing Times [Internet]. 2005 Mar 22 [cited 2017 Feb 12]; 101(12): 60. Available from: https://www.nursingtimes.net/understanding-urine-testing/204042.article
  11. Saint Francis Health System [Internet]. Tulsa (OK): Saint Francis Health System; c2016. Patient Information: Collecting a Clean Catch Urine Sample; [cited 2017 Apr 13]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.saintfrancis.com/lab/Documents/Collecting%20a%20Clean%20Catch%20Urine.pdf
  12. 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: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/0315/p1153.html
  13. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; c2017. Health Encyclopedia: Microscopic Urinalysis [cited 2017 Feb 12]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=urinanalysis_microscopic_exam

The medical information provided is for informational purposes only, and is not to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please contact your health care provider with questions you may have regarding medical conditions or the interpretation of test results.

In the event of a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.