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What does a urine test show?

Urinalysis is used to test for a variety of disease symptoms and chemical compounds

Urinalysis is used to test for a variety of disease symptoms and chemical compounds

What does a urine test show?

Tristan Hoag

By Tristan Hoag on April 18, 2018


If you find yourself wondering ‘what does a urine test show’, it can help to understand the purpose of urinalysis

If you’re getting ready to take a test, either at a doctor’s request or as part of an employment drug screening, you may find yourself wondering: What does a urine test show? This is a huge concern for thousands of JA customers year-round, with this question not only high on the list for customer visits, but also showing that our data tracks closely with a national survey of exactly who worries about urine tests.

The answer is complicated; it can depend upon the kind of test being performed and what the lab is looking for. To understand what a urine test can detect, you need to start with the various things urinalysis is used for.

The many, many uses of urinalysis

Your urinary system is responsible for cleaning waste from the bloodstream. Everything you take into your body ends up leaving trace elements in your urine. Fluctuations in the normal makeup of urine can also be an indicator of other problems in the body. As a result, urine is a treasure trove of information about your health and what you have been taking into your body.

Urine can be tested in three ways, depending upon the purpose of the exam:

  • Visual exam: The sample is checked for cloudiness or any unusual particulates that can indicate infections or disease.
  • Dipstick test: A chemically reactive strip is dipped into the sample. Depending on the strip being used, it can indicate pH or identify the presence of different kinds of substances.
  • Microscopic analysis: The sample is put in a centrifuge and the sediments are examined under a microscope.

Urinalysis is performed for many medical purposes, including:

  • Screening: A routine urinalysis can be used to screen for diabetes or diseases of the liver or kidneys.
  • Diagnosis: If you have symptoms like abdominal pain, painful urination, or blood in your urine, a urinalysis can be used to help determine the causes.
  • Monitoring: Some conditions, such as kidney stones or urinary tract infections require regular urinalysis to monitor the progress of your treatment.
  • Pregnancy testing: By looking for a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), a urine exam can be used to test for pregnancy.

Any of these reasons could be the reason for a routine urine test.

Microscopic analysis can be used to detect signs of other problems, such as kidney stones

Microscopic analysis can be used to detect signs of other problems, such as kidney stones

All this and drug screening, too

In addition to the medial reasons, urine tests can be used to detect the presence of many types of illegal substances. If you are facing a mandatory drug screening, you will very possibly be required to provide a urine sample

Urine will show traces of many substances, including;

  • Amphetamines
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Cannabinoids
  • Clenbuterol
  • Cocaine
  • Codeine
  • Euphorics
  • Ketamine
  • LSD
  • Methamphetamine
  • Steroids
  • Opiates
  • PCP
  • Phenobarbital
  • Propoxyphene

Most of these drugs can only be detected in the urine for roughly a week after use, though cannabinoids, steroids and long-acting barbiturates can be detected for several weeks.

On JustAnswer, Experts respond to drug testing questions from customers who are worried about the results of their urine exams. Regardless of the question, the Experts offer the best advice they can to assist.

In this session, the most visited in JustAnswer’s drug testing category, the customer has taken a urine exam, tried to use a clean sample during the test, and was worried that a test of the contents of the toilet bowl would reveal the deception. The Expert in this instance, FamilyPhysician, assures the customer that the toilet bowl would be considered too contaminated to be a reliable source of information.

Because of the number of visitors who come to JustAnswer to ask their own questions or to read through the answers given to others, we can start to identify trends reflected in the data. In a 2015 study of the statistics of urine test failures, they found that:

“…there was almost an equal portion of males and females, primarily over the age of 25 years, who were evaluated by this urine drug panel.”

If we look at the age and gender data from the visitors to this urinalysis question:

graph of visitors by age group

graph of visitors by gender

It’s easy to recognize the similarities in the age and gender division, indicating a possible correlation between the kinds of people who worry enough about failing drug tests to read about them on JustAnswer, and the kinds of people who, sadly, go on to fail those drug tests.

Preparing for a urine exam

If you’re about to have a urine test, you may be wondering what to expect.

  • Food and drink: Unless otherwise directed by your doctor, there is no need to change your diet before a urine exam.
  • Medications: Be sure to inform your doctor of any e mediations you are taking as they can sometimes alter the results.
  • Timing: You may be asked to take the sample first thing in the morning, as the urine is most highly concentrated.

Once your sample is collected, it is sent to a lab to be tested based on the purpose of the screening.

When you find yourself asking drug testing questions like ‘what does a urine test show’, the Experts on JustAnswer are the perfect resource. Knowledgeable and experienced, they are ready to offer you anonymous advice that will help you to navigate a potentially difficult situation.