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BODY WATCH : Test & Tell : Urine Tests Can Give Doctors a Body of Data and Evidence of Diseases Like Hypertension

October 17, 1995|SHARI ROAN | TIMES HEALTH WRITER

It's cheap (about $10), quick (usually about 10 seconds) and relatively painless. But a urine test can tell you a lot about your health.

A Window to Your Inner Workings

Nearly 100 tests are done on urine, providing information about almost every organ. The diseases the tests can detect include: diabetes, kidney stones, urinary tract infections, liver disease, gallbladder disease, hypertension and hormonal disorders (or hormonal changes indicating pregnancy).

Simple Versus Not-So-Simple Testing

A basic urine lab test--which involves dipping specially treated strips of paper in urine and waiting for a color change--can determine the presence of blood, protein, sugar, albumin (a protein produced by people suffering from various kidney diseases), bacteria and hormones.

A urinalysis is more complex test in which urine is spun in a centrifuge to separate solid particles from liquid. The sediment is collected and examined under a microscope for such things as white blood cells, red blood cell, bacteria, epithelial cells and abnormal cell formations.

The time of day a urine test is taken greatly affects its contents. The first morning specimen usually contains a higher concentration of wastes excreted by the kidneys.

Signs of Trouble

Urine tests are particularly good for detecting:

* Glucose. Urine usually has very little sugar. But when the blood sugar level is very high, as in diabetes mellitus, the ability of kidneys to handle the glucose is exceeded and glucose spills over into urine.

* Ketones. When the body cannot use carbohydrates for energy, it burns fat. The byproducts of the fat that are metabolized show up in the urine as ketones.

* Protein. This is usually not excreted in urine, so when it is found, it is a likely sign of kidney disease.

* Uric acid. This is the result of a breakdown of the body's cells. Uric acid can build up in the blood and urine due to certain metabolic conditions such as gout or kidney disease.

"But Nurse, I Just Can't Go"

* The kidneys filter about 200 quarts of fluid every 24 hours.

* The kidneys produce about one to two quarts of urine that are excreted daily.

* Excreted urine has been stored in the bladder from one to eight hours.

Source: National Kidney Foundation

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