The contents of a urine sample can be completely analyzed via a process called urinalysis. It is a type of urine test that helps a doctor to understand and evaluate the overall health of a person. In most cases, doctor will suggest a urinalysis in order to find out the presence of a urinary tract infection. However, the information available in the urinalysis results can also help in the detection of different conditions affecting the body, besides a UTI. Hence, it is a common practice among health care providers to recommend a urinalysis as one of the tests to be performed during a routine checkup.
A urinalysis consists of two processes, i.e. macroscopic and microscopic investigation of a urine sample. The macroscopic analysis consists of examination of various properties of urine like cloudiness, urine color, clarity of urine, the occurrence of sediments, presence of clots, etc. A microscopic analysis involves study of the urine sample under a microscope. A dipstick analysis of urine sample is useful in detecting the presence of nitrites, blood or proteins in urine, as well as in determining the values of pH concentration and gravity in the sample of urine. Thus, the above listed tests help a lab technician to verify the different materials present in the urine sample and also to check the count of bacteria, red blood cells, various microbes, white blood cells and epithelial cells in urine.
Epithelial cells in urine may be present for a number of reasons. However, most cases of epithelial cells in urine are caused due to presence of inflammation, infections, or malignancies.
What are epithelial cells?
The epithelial cells or tissues are vital cells found in the body. The skin is composed of epithelial cells and tissues. Also, a number of organs and the different openings within the body have lines of epithelial cells. When various types of epithelial cells are bound together, then it results in the formation of an epithelial tissue.
All of us are aware of the fact that the urinary tract is also an opening in the body. Hence, it will also have epithelial cells. Therefore, an examination of any urine sample will show the occurrence of epithelial cells in urine. Such a presence of epithelial cells in urine is generally found out with a microscopic investigation of urine sample. It may however be noted that the precise count of epithelial cells in urine can only be determined after the urine sediment has undergone a microscopic analysis. This type of examination is deemed as the final stage of a urinalysis.
Urinalysis is performed by placing the urine sample in a test tube. The sample of urine is then subjected to spinning by a spinning machine, for a few minutes. Once the spinning machine has stopped, the lab technician will note that the urine sample has two parts, i.e. a sedimentary portion at the bottom of the tube and a clear liquid above it. The lab agent will then filter out the sediment from the clear liquid that has gathered at the top of the tube. Later, the sediment is examined for the presence of epithelial cells in urine and other substances like bacteria, urine crystals, etc.
- There are many types of epithelial cells that can be found throughout the body. The urinary tract is however composed of three varieties of epithelial cells, i.e. squamous, transitional, and renal tubular cells. The squamous epithelial cells are normally found in the vagina, on the skin and the outer sections of the urethra. The renal tubular epithelial cells are present in the nephrons of the kidneys, while transitional epithelial cells are located in the bladder.
- Once the urine sample has been fully examined, the epithelial cells in urine are classified according to the quantity and type. Epithelial cells in urine are classified as “many” or “few”, or as “occasional” or “moderate” in number. The occurrence of some types of epithelial cells in urine, mainly the squamous and transitional forms, is considered as normal.
- The detection of renal tubular epithelial cells in urine via a urinalysis is usually an indication of the presence of a serious disorder of the kidneys. This is more so when they are present in large amounts. Excessive levels of squamous epithelial cells in urine signify contamination of the urine sample. This is the reason why doctors insist on an early morning specimen of urine sample, so that it is not contaminated. The identification of excessive numbers of transitional epithelial cells in urine may also signify the presence of a severe medical disorder.
- When epithelial cells in urine are found, then the patient should visit a doctor evaluation and treatment. After checking the type and quantity of epithelial cells in urine, the doctor may suggest further tests and then come to a conclusion about the underlying disease which may be present.
- A treatment plan is then charted out to treat the condition that is causing epithelial cells in urine. Bacterial infections of the urinary tract may be treated with antibiotics and lifestyle changes. Serious conditions of the bladder or kidney stones may require surgical intervention.
How to prevent squamous epithelial cells in urine
To ensure that the pathologist gets the correct diagnosis, always make sure that you collect your mid-stream urine. This is because loose epithelial cells that line the skin around the vagina or the penis, will get washed away in the first flow of urine. So, collect urine in the small container only after you relieve the initial rush of urine, and collect it mid-stream before the flow stops.