Continued from last week
Urinating is something we do whenever the urge comes without giving much thought to it. We almost take it for granted. Interestingly, every time a person urinates the body is doing some pretty amazing things. Do you know why you urinate or even what the urine is made of? It will pay you great dividends to know a bit about the way your body works and the role of urine in determining health status.
Pregnancy signs in urine
For many couples, a home urine test brings the first news of pregnancy. Here’s how a home urine pregnancy test works. The test is designed to find a hormone called human chorionic gonadoptropin (hCG). Your placenta produces hCG in abundance during the first few days when pregnancy begins.
To perform this pregnancy test, you will need to collect your urine sample in a cup. After you have the urine, you will use a dipstick or an eyedropper depending on the test. Some tests also call for placing a dipstick in a stream of urine. Typically you will want to wait until the first day of your missed period to test your urine. Tests vary, so be sure to carefully follow the instructions given for any particular test.
When taken correctly, home urine pregnancy tests are estimated to be accurate 97 per cent of the time. But not everyone takes these tests correctly. If your test shows up negative but you find other symptoms of pregnancy such as breast tenderness, nausea, and missed periods, give it a week and test again or ask your doctor for a blood test.
The kidneys produce urine, so using urine to find kidney problems shouldn’t be surprising. Indeed, a variety of clues to the health of your kidneys can be found in a urine sample. Kidney infections like glomerulonephritis, bacteriuria, and pyelonephritis can be discovered through urinalysis. So can atheroembolic renal disease, which occurs when cholesterol and other tiny bits of fat spread into the kidney’s small blood vessels. Kidney problems due to excess protein in the urine (proteinuria) can be diagnosed by looking at the ratio of protein to creatinine in your urine. At other times a urine sample can reveal clues about kidney scarring (glomerulosclerosis), pre-renal kidney injury, and kidney inflammation. The most severe kidney problem is kidney failure. Symptoms include:
Dry, itchy skin
Loss of appetite
Vomiting and nausea
Sleep difficulty and cramping at night
What is glomerulonephritis?
Glomerulonephritis is a big word that refers to several diseases that cause kidney injury. That monstrous word takes its name from the glomeruli, the tiny filters the kidneys use to clean your blood of waste. These diseases are divided into two types: acute and chronic. Acute kidney injury comes on suddenly, and can be caused by throat and skin infections, as well as other disorders. It may get better all by itself, but it may also cause your kidneys to stop working without proper medical treatment. There are several symptoms of acute glomerulonephritis:
Less frequent urination
Brown or bloody urine
Shortness of breath and coughing due to fluid buildup in lungs
High blood pressure (hypertension)
If you have these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
Chronic glomerulonephritis can develop over several years without showing symptoms, and often causes complete kidney failure. There may be symptoms, however, which include:
Urine that is consistently foamy or bubbly
Needing to urinate at night frequently
Facial and ankle swelling (edema)
High blood pressure
Bloody or high-protein urination
Inflamed blood vessels (Vasculitis)
Sometimes high levels of proteins in your pee indicate vasculitis. When the blood vessels are inflamed, this may affect the kidneys. To find out if this is the case, a doctor will often order a urinalysis. Your physician will be looking for three clues to determine if your kidneys have been inflamed as well as your blood vessels. They look for high levels of protein (proteinuria), red blood cells (hematuria), and red blood cell clumps (casts).
If your doctor suspects kidney inflammation, you will likely receive more tests. This is because several other diseases mimic vasculitis, and also because treatment for this condition comes with serious risks. One other likely test will be a kidney biopsy. Since this procedure comes with a small but serious risk of bleeding, you will likely be monitored at the hospital for 24 hours.
Urinary tract obstruction
Blockages in your urinary tract may show up in urine tests. Your urinary system can become obstructed at several points. You could have a blockage at your kidneys, in the tube between your bladder and your kidneys (ureter), in the bladder itself, an enlarged prostate, or a blockage in the tube that carries your urine out of the body (urethra). Wherever the obstruction, some of its symptoms may appear in the urine.
The standard place for a doctor to begin to assess urinary obstruction is with a urinalysis. In the case of this disorder, your doctor will actually be looking for a normal urinalysis to rule out other causes. If your urinary tract is obstructed you may also notice that the force of your urine is weak or interrupted, or that urine cannot be passed at all. Blood may also appear in your urine.
Kidney stones: Painful kidney stones can be identified through urinalysis.
If you don’t cringe at the thought of kidney stones, perhaps you don’t know how they are passed. Kidney stones are bits of material that form in the kidneys, and they can be as large as a pearl in the worst cases. These are eventually passed through the urethra, a process that is frequently very painful.
Once again, hints that you have kidney stones may be revealed by the urine. If you find that it is bloody, this may indicate kidney stones. The same is true if it is cloudy or smells awful. In addition, a urinalysis may reveal too much calcium in the urine, a condition known as hypercalciuria.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease wherein the body attacks itself. This can harm healthy body tissue, and when the autoimmune reaction targets the kidneys, the condition is called lupus nephritis. The cause of this condition is unknown, but women are much likelier to develop it than men. The clues for this disease found in the urine may include blood or excessive protein. That’s why urinalysis is commonly used as a test for patients with lupus.
Gallbladder and liver problems
If your pee is consistently dark and you’ve had plenty of water, this may indicate liver or gallbladder problems. Damage from certain drugs like acetaminophen (Tylenol), cancer, stones, and viruses are some of the many causes of these health problems.
The human urine turns dark because of a yellow fluid called bilirubin. Urobilinogen and other liver and gallbladder diseases can cause bilirubin to leak from your liver into your blood. If it’s severe enough, this can also turn your skin and eyes yellow, a condition known as jaundice.
What does blue urine indicate?
Is your urine blue? Blue urine is a key indicator of an inherited disorder known as familial benign hypercalcemia. It’s also called blue diaper syndrome since that’s the colour it leaves diapers of babies with this condition. It’s generally not harmful, though fetuses with two sets of the responsible gene may suffer from severe neonatal primary hyperparathyroidism.
Collecting a urine sample
Clean methods for collecting urine samples are important. You’ve probably given a urine sample before. But did you know there’s a wrong way and a right way? Though it’s a common myth, urine is not actually sterile. It has low levels of bacteria even in healthy people. But too much bacteria indicates a potential infection in your urinary tract.
To rule out a urinary tract infection, it’s essential to prevent a misreading of the number of bacterial clusters in your urine. To do this, you need to provide the sample in a special way. This is called the “midstream” or “clean-catch” urine collection method, which was developed in the 1950s.
What is the clean-catch method?
The importance of the clean-catch urine collection is to avoid germs. So the first step is to wash your hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water. Women should wash the area between their labia by sitting on the toilet, spreading their labia between two fingers and cleaning the inner folds, then the urethra where urine exits. Keeping the labia spread, you then urinate briefly into the toilet bowl, then stop and hold the cup a few inches from the urethra and fill the cup halfway.
Men have a different method. The first step is still hand-washing. Then clean the head of the penis. For uncircumcised men, pull the foreskin back before cleaning the head. Next, urinate a bit and stop the flow, and then collect the urine in the cup until its half full. By following this method, you can assure that your medical team has a more accurate understanding of your health.
• Adapted from