- Contamination of urine by menstrual blood in females
- Contamination of urine by oxidizing agent (e.g. hypochlorite or bleach used to clean urine containers), or microbial peroxidase in urinary tract infection.
- Presence of a reducing agent like ascorbic acid in high concentration: Microscopic examination for red cells is positive but chemical test is negative.
- Use of formalin as a preservative for urine
- End replication problem in eukaryotes accounts for loss of 20 base pairs per cell division.
- Oxidative stress accounts for loss of 50-100 base pairs per cell division.
- Bile salts
- Nitrite or leukocyte esterase
Normally, kidneys excrete scant amount of protein in urine (up to 150 mg/24 hours). These proteins include proteins from plasma (albumin) and proteins derived from urinary tract (Tamm-Horsfall protein, secretory IgA, and proteins from tubular epithelial cells, leucocytes, and other desquamated cells); this amount of proteinuria cannot be detected by routine tests. (Tamm-Horsfall protein is a normal mucoprotein secreted by ascending limb of the loop of Henle).
Box 826.1: Causes of proteinuria
• Glomerular proteinuria
• Tubular proteinuria
• Overflow proteinuria
• Hemodynamic (functional) proteinuria
• Post-renal proteinuria
- Glomerular proteinuria: Proteinuria due to increased permeability of glomerular capillary wall is called as glomerular proteinuria.
There are two types of glomerular proteinuria: selective and nonselective. In early stages of glomerular disease, there is increased excretion of lower molecular weight proteins like albumin and transferrin. When glomeruli can retain larger molecular weight proteins but allow passage of comparatively lower molecular weight proteins, the proteinuria is called as selective. With further glomerular damage, this selectivity is lost and larger molecular weight proteins (γ globulins) are also excreted along with albumin; this is called as nonselective proteinuria.
Selective and nonselective proteinuria can be distinguished by urine protein electrophoresis. In selective proteinuria, albumin and transferrin bands are seen, while in nonselective type, the pattern resembles that of serum (Figure 826.1).
Causes of glomerular proteinuria are glomerular diseases that cause increased permeability of glomerular basement membrane. The degree of glomerular proteinuria correlates with severity of disease and prognosis. Serial estimations of urinary protein are also helpful in monitoring response to treatment. Most severe degree of proteinuria occurs in nephrotic syndrome (Box 826.2).Box 826.2: Nephrotic syndrome• Massive proteinuria (>3.5 gm/24 hr)• Hypoalbuminemia (<3.0 gm/dl)• Generalised edema• Hyperlipidemia (serum cholesterol >350 mg/dl)• Lipiduria
- Tubular proteinuria: Normally, glomerular membrane, although impermeable to high molecular weight proteins, allows ready passage to low molecular weight proteins like β2-microglobulin, retinol-binding protein, lysozyme, α1-microglobulin, and free immunoglobulin light chains. These low molecular weight proteins are actively reabsorbed by proximal renal tubules. In diseases involving mainly tubules, these proteins are excreted in urine while albumin excretion is minimal.
Urine electrophoresis shows prominent α- and β-bands (where low molecular weight proteins migrate) and a faint albumin band (Figure 826.1).
Tubular type of proteinuria is commonly seen in acute and chronic pyelonephritis, heavy metal poisoning, tuberculosis of kidney, interstitial nephritis, cystinosis, Fanconi syndrome and rejection of kidney transplant.
Purely tubular proteinuria cannot be detected by reagent strip test (which is sensitive to albumin), but heat and acetic acid test and sulphosalicylic acid test are positive.
- Overflow proteinuria: When concentration of a low molecular weight protein rises in plasma, it “overflows” from plasma into the urine. Such proteins are immunoglobulin light chains or Bence Jones proteins (plasma cell dyscrasias), hemoglobin (intravascular hemolysis), myoglobin (skeletal muscle trauma), and lysozyme (acute myeloid leukemia type M4 or M5).
- Hemodynamic proteinuria: Alteration of blood flow through the glomeruli causes increased filtration of proteins. Protein excretion, however, is transient. It is seen in high fever, hypertension, heavy exercise, congestive cardiac failure, seizures, and exposure to cold.
Postural (orthostatic) proteinuria occurs when the subject is standing or ambulatory, but is absent in recumbent position. It is common in adolescents (3-5%) and is probably due to lordotic posture that causes inferior venacaval compression between the liver and vertebral column. The condition disappears in adulthood. Amount of proteinuria is <1000 mg/day. First-morning urine after rising is negative for proteins, while another urine sample collected after patient performs normal activities is positive for proteins. In such patients, periodic testing for proteinuria should be done to rule out renal disease.
- Post-renal proteinuria: This is caused by inflammatory or neoplastic conditions in renal pelvis, ureter, bladder, prostate, or urethra.
Box 826.3: Urine glucose
• Urine should be tested for glucose within 2 hours of collection (due to lowering of glucose by glycolysis and by contaminating bacteria which degrade glucose rapidly)
• Reagent strip test is a rapid, inexpensive, and semi-quantitative test
• In the past this test was used for home-monitoring of glucose; the test is replaced by glucometers.
• Urine glucose cannot be used to monitor control of diabetes since renal threshold is variable amongst individuals, no information about level of blood glucose below renal threshold is obtained, and urinary glucose value is affected by concentration of urine.
- Endocrine diseases: diabetes mellitus, acromegaly, Cushing’s syndrome, hyperthyroidism, pancreatic disease
- Non-endocrine diseases: central nervous system diseases, liver disorders
- Drugs: adrenocorticotrophic hormone, corticosteroids, thiazides
- Alimentary glycosuria (Lag-storage glycosuria): After a meal, there is rapid intestinal absorption of glucose leading to transient elevation of blood glucose above renal threshold. This can occur in persons with gastrectomy or gastrojejunostomy and in hyperthyroidism. Glucose tolerance test reveals a peak at 1 hour above renal threshold (which causes glycosuria); the fasting and 2-hour glucose values are normal.
- Renal glycosuria: This accounts for 5% of cases of glycosuria in general population. Renal threshold is the highest glucose level in blood at which glucose appears in urine and which is detectable by routine laboratory tests. The normal renal threshold for glucose is 180 mg/dl. Threshold substances need a carrier to transport them from tubular lumen to blood. When the carrier is saturated, the threshold is reached and the substance is excreted. Up to this level glucose filtered by the glomeruli is efficiently reabsorbed by tubules. Renal glycosuria is a benign condition in which renal threshold is set below 180 mgs/dl but glucose tolerance is normal; the disorder is transmitted as autosomal dominant. Other conditions in which glycosuria can occur with blood glucose level remaining below 180 mgs/dl are renal tubular diseases in which there is decreased glucose reabsorption like Fanconi’s syndrome, and toxic renal tubular damage. During pregnancy, renal threshold for glucose is decreased. Therefore it is necessary to estimate blood glucose when glucose is first detected in urine.
Box 826.4: Urine ketones in diabetes
Indications for testing
• At diagnosis of diabetes mellitus
• At regular intervals in all known cases of diabetes, and in gestational diabetes
• In known diabetic patients during acute illness, persistent hyperglycemia (>300 mg/dl), pregnancy, clinical evidence of diabetic acidosis (nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain)
- Decreased utilization of carbohydrates:
a. Uncontrolled diabetes mellitus with ketoacidosis: In diabetes, because of poor glucose utilization, there is compensatory increased lipolysis. This causes increase in the level of free fatty acids in plasma. Degradation of free fatty acids in the liver leads to the formation of acetoacetyl CoA which then forms ketone bodies. Ketone bodies are strong acids and produce H+ ions, which are neutralized by bicarbonate ions; fall in bicarbonate (i.e. alkali) level produces ketoacidosis. Ketone bodies also increase the plasma osmolality and cause cellular dehydration. Children and young adults with type 1 diabetes are especially prone to ketoacidosis during acute illness and stress. If glycosuria is present, then test for ketone bodies must be done. If both glucose and ketone bodies are present in urine, then it indicates presence of diabetes mellitus with ketoacidosis (Box 826.4).
In some cases of diabetes, ketone bodies are increased in blood but do not appear in urine.
Presence of ketone bodies in urine may be a warning of impending ketoacidotic coma.
b. Glycogen storage disease (von Gierke’s disease)
- Decreased availability of carbohydrates in the diet:
b. Persistent vomiting in children
c. Weight reduction program (severe carbohydrate restriction with normal fat intake)
- Increased metabolic needs:
a. Fever in children
b. Severe thyrotoxicosis
d. Protein calorie malnutrition
|Urine test||Hemolytic jaundice||Hepatocellular jaundice||Obstructive jaundice|
Presence of bilirubin in urine indicates conjugated hyperbilirubinemia (obstructive or hepatocellular jaundice). This is because only conjugated bilirubin is water-soluble. Bilirubin in urine is absent in hemolytic jaundice; this is because unconjugated bilirubin is water-insoluble.
- Hemolysis: Excessive destruction of red cells leads to hyperbilirubinemia and therefore increased formation of urobilinogen in the gut. Bilirubin, being of unconjugated type, does not appear in urine. Increased urobilinogen in urine without bilirubin is typical of hemolytic anemia. This also occurs in megaloblastic anemia due to premature destruction of erythroid precursors in bone marrow (ineffective erythropoiesis).
- Hemorrhage in tissues: There is increased formation of bilirubin from destruction of red cells.
- Obstructive jaundice: In biliary tract obstruction, delivery of bilirubin to the intestine is restricted and very little or no urobilinogen is formed. This causes stools to become clay-colored.
- Reduction of intestinal bacterial flora: This prevents conversion of bilirubin to urobilinogen in the intestine. It is observed in neonates and following antibiotic treatment.
- Glomerular diseases: Glomerulonephritis, Berger’s disease, lupus nephritis, Henoch-Schonlein purpura
- Nonglomerular diseases: Calculus, tumor, infection, tuberculosis, pyelonephritis, hydronephrosis, polycystic kidney disease, trauma, after strenuous physical exercise, diseases of prostate (benign hyperplasia of prostate, carcinoma of prostate).
- Hematuria with subsequent lysis of red blood cells in urine of low specific gravity.
- Intravascular hemolysis: Hemoglobin will appear in urine when haptoglobin (to which hemoglobin binds in plasma) is completely saturated with hemoglobin. Intravascular hemolysis occurs in infections (severe falciparum malaria, clostridial infection, E. coli septicemia), trauma to red cells (march hemoglobinuria, extensive burns, prosthetic heart valves), glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency following exposure to oxidant drugs, immune hemolysis (mismatched blood transfusion, paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria), paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria, hemolytic uremic syndrome, and disseminated intravascular coagulation.
|1. Urine color||Normal, smoky, red, or brown||Pink, red, or brown||Red or brown|
|2. Plasma color||Normal||Pink||Normal|
|3. Urine test based on peroxidase activity||Positive||Positive||Positive|
|4. Urine microscopy||Many red cells||Occasional red cell||Occasional red cell|
|5. Serum haptoglobin||Normal||Low||Normal|
|6. Serum creatine kinase||Normal||Normal||Markedly increased|
|1. Normal||0-trace||0-2||0-2||Occasional (Hyaline)||–|
|2. Acute glomerulonephritis||1-2+||Numerous;dysmorphic||0-few||Red cell, granular||Smoky urine or hematuria|
|3. Nephrotic syndrome||> 4+||0-few||0-few||Fatty, hyaline, Waxy, epithelial||Oval fat bodies, lipiduria|
|4. Acute pyelonephritis||0-1+||0-few||Numerous||WBC, granular||WBC clumps, bacteria, nitrite test|
|HPF: High power field; LPF: Low power field; RBCs: Red blood cells; WBCs: White blood cells.|
- Clumps of pus cells or pus cells >10/HPF
- Positive nitrite test
- Microscopic examination: In a wet preparation, presence of bacteria should be reported only when urine is fresh. Bacteria occur in combination with pus cells. Gram’s-stained smear of uncentrifuged urine showing 1 or more bacteria per oil-immersion field suggests presence of > 105 bacterial colony forming units/ml of urine. If many squamous cells are present, then urine is probably contaminated with vaginal flora. Also, presence of only bacteria without pus cells indicates contamination with vaginal or skin flora.
- Chemical or reagent strip tests for significant bacteriuria: These are given earlier.
- Culture: On culture, a colony count of >105/ml is strongly suggestive of urinary tract infection, even in asymptomatic females. Positive culture is followed by sensitivity test. Most infections are due to Gram-negative enteric bacteria, particularly Escherichia coli.
- Noncellular: Hyaline, granular, waxy, fatty
- Cellular: Red blood cell, white blood cell, renal tubular epithelial cell.
- Uric acid crystals: These are variable in shape (diamond, rosette, plates), and yellow or red-brown in color (due to urinary pigment). They are soluble in alkali, and insoluble in acid. Increased numbers are found in gout and leukemia. Flat hexagonal uric acid crystals may be mistaken for cysteine crystals that also form in acid urine.
- Calcium oxalate crystals: These are colorless, refractile, and envelope-shaped. Sometimes dumbbell-shaped or peanut-like forms are seen. They are soluble in dilute hydrochloric acid. Ingestion of certain foods like tomatoes, spinach, cabbage, asparagus, and rhubarb causes increase in their numbers. Their increased number in fresh urine (oxaluria) may also suggest oxalate stones. A large number are seen in ethylene glycol poisoning.
- Amorphous urates: These are urate salts of potassium, magnesium, or calcium in acid urine. They are usually yellow, fine granules in compact masses. They are soluble in alkali or saline at 60°C.
- Calcium carbonate crystals: These are small, colorless, and grouped in pairs. They are soluble in acetic acid and give off bubbles of gas when they dissolve.
- Phosphates: Phosphates may occur as crystals (triple phosphates, calcium hydrogen phosphate), or as amorphous deposits.
• Phosphate crystals
Triple phosphates (ammonium magnesium phosphate): They are colorless, shiny, 3-6 sided prisms with oblique surfaces at the ends (“coffinlids”), or may have a feathery fern-like appearance.
Calcium hydrogen phosphate (stellar phosphate): These are colorless, and of variable shape (starshaped, plates or prisms).
• Amorphous phosphates: These occur as colorless small granules, often dispersed.
All phosphates are soluble in dilute acetic acid.
- Ammonium urate crystals: These occur as cactus-like (covered with spines) and called as ‘thornapple’ crystals. They are yellow-brown and soluble in acetic acid at 60°C.
- Cysteine crystals: These are colorless, clear, hexagonal (having 6 sides), very refractile plates in acid urine. They often occur in layers. They are soluble in 30% hydrochloric acid. They are seen in cysteinuria, an inborn error of metabolism. Cysteine crystals are often associated with formation of cysteine stones.
- Cholesterol crystals: These are colorless, refractile, flat rectangular plates with notched (missing) corners, and appear stacked in a stair-step arrangement. They are soluble in ether, chloroform, or alcohol. They are seen in lipiduria e.g. nephrotic syndrome and hypercholesterolemia. They can be positively identified by polarizing microscope.
- Bilirubin crystals: These are small (5 μ), brown crystals of variable shape (square, bead-like, or fine needles). Their presence can be confirmed by doing reagent strip or chemical test for bilirubin. These crystals are soluble in strong acid or alkali. They are seen in severe obstructive liver disease.
- Leucine crystals: These are refractile, yellow or brown, spheres with radial or concentric striations. They are soluble in alkali. They are usually found in urine along with tyrosine in severe liver disease (cirrhosis).
- Tyrosine crystals: They appear as clusters of fine, delicate, colorless or yellow needles and are seen in liver disease and tyrosinemia (an inborn error of metabolism). They dissolve in alkali.
- Sulfonamide crystals: They are variably shaped crystals, but usually appear as sheaves of needles. They occur following sulfonamide therapy. They are soluble in acetone.
Methods for detection of bilirubin in urine are foam test, Gmelin’s test, Lugol iodine test, Fouchet’s test, Ictotest tablet test, and reagent strip test.
- Foam test: About 5 ml of urine in a test tube is shaken and observed for development of yellowish foam. Similar result is also obtained with proteins and highly concentrated urine. In normal urine, foam is white.
- Gmelin’s test: Take 3 ml of concentrated nitric acid in a test tube and slowly place equal quantity of urine over it. The tube is shaken gently; play of colors (yellow, red, violet, blue, and green) indicates positive test (Figure 823.1).
- Lugol iodine test: Take 4 ml of Lugol iodine solution (Iodine 1 gm, potassium iodide 2 gm, and distilled water to make 100 ml) in a test tube and add 4 drops of urine. Mix by shaking. Development of green color indicates positive test.
- Fouchet’s test: This is a simple and sensitive test.
i. Take 5 ml of fresh urine in a test tube, add 2.5 ml of 10% of barium chloride, and mix well. A precipitate of sulphates appears to which bilirubin is bound (barium sulphate-bilirubin complex).
ii. Filter to obtain the precipitate on a filter paper.
iii. To the precipitate on the filter paper, add 1 drop of Fouchet’s reagent. (Fouchet’s reagent consists of 25 grams of trichloroacetic acid, 10 ml of 10% ferric chloride, and distilled water 100 ml).
iv. Immediate development of blue-green color around the drop indicates presence of bilirubin (Figure 823.2).
- Reagent strips or tablets impregnated with diazo reagent: These tests are based on reaction of bilirubin with diazo reagent; color change is proportional to the concentration of bilirubin. Tablets (Ictotest) detect 0.05-0.1 mg of bilirubin/dl of urine; reagent strip tests are less sensitive (0.5 mg/dl).
- Take 5 ml of urine in a test tube and saturate it with ammonium sulphate.
- Add a small crystal of sodium nitroprusside. Mix well.
- Slowly run along the side of the test tube liquor ammonia to form a layer.
- Immediate formation of a purple permanganate colored ring at the junction of the two fluids indicates a positive test (Figure 822.2).
|Parameter||Reagent strip test||Sulphosalicylic acid test|
|1. Principle||Colorimetric||Acid precipitation|
|2. Proteins detected||Albumin||All (albumin, Bence Jones proteins, hemoglobin, myoglobin)|
|3. Sensitivity||5-10 mg/dl||20 mg/dl|
|4. Indicator||Color change||Turbidity|
|5. Type of test||Screening||Confirmatory|
- Diagnosis of nephrotic syndrome
- Detection of microalbuminuria or early diabetic nephropathy
- To follow response to therapy in renal disease
- Estimation of proteins in a 24-hour urine sample, and
- Estimation of protein/creatinine ratio in a random urine sample.
|Condition||mg/24 hr||mg/L||mg/g creatinine||μg/min||μg/mg creatinine||g/mol creatinine|
|Normal||< 30||< 20||< 20||< 20||< 30||< 2.5|
|Overt albuminuria||> 300||> 200||> 300||> 200||> 300||> 25|
- Microalbuminuria is considered as the earliest sign of renal damage in diabetes mellitus (diabetic nephropathy). It indicates increase in capillary permeability to albumin and denotes microvascular disease. Microalbuminuria precedes the development of diabetic nephropathy by a few years. If blood glucose level and hypertension are tightly controlled at this stage by aggressive treatment then progression to irreversible renal disease and subsequent renal failure can be delayed or prevented.
- Microalbuminuria is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease in diabetes mellitus.
- Measurement of albumin-creatinine ratio in a random urine sample
- Measurement of albumin in an early morning or random urine sample
- Measurement of albumin in a 24 hr sample
- Take 5 ml of Benedict’s qualitative reagent in a test tube (composition of Benedict’s qualitative reagent: copper sulphate 17.3 gram, sodium carbonate 100 gram, sodium citrate 173 gram, distilled water 1000 ml).
- Add 0.5 ml (or 8 drops) of urine. Mix well.
- Boil over a flame for 2 minutes.
- Allow to cool at room temperature.
- Note the color change, if any.
- Nil: no change from blue color
- Trace: Green without precipitate
- 1+ (approx. 0.5 grams/dl): Green with precipitate
- 2+ (approx. 1.0 grams/dl): Brown precipitate
- 3+ (approx. 1.5 grams/dl: Yellow-orange precipitate
- 4+ (> 2.0 grams/dl): Brick- red precipitate.
- Specific Gravity
- Polyuria means urinary volume > 2000 ml/24 hours. This is seen in diabetes mellitus (osmotic diuresis), diabetes insipidus (failure of secretion of antidiuretic hormone), chronic renal failure (loss of concentrating ability of kidneys) or diuretic therapy.
- Oliguria means urinary volume < 400 ml/24 hours. Causes include febrile states, acute glomerulonephritis (decreased glomerular filtration), congestive cardiac failure or dehydration (decreased renal blood flow).
- Anuria means urinary output < 100 ml/24 hours or complete cessation of urine output. It occurs in acute tubular necrosis (e.g. in shock, hemolytic transfusion reaction), acute glomerulonephritis, and complete urinary tract obstruction.
|Colorless||Dilute urine (diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus, overhydration)|
|Red||Hematuria, Hemoglobinuria, Porphyria, Myoglobinuria|
|Dark brown or black||Alkaptonuria, Melanoma|
|Yellow-green or green||Biliverdin|
|Deep yellow with yellow foam||Bilirubin|
|Orange or orange-brown||Urobilinogen/Porphobilinogen|
|Red or orange fluorescence with UV light||Porphyria|
|Note: Many drugs cause changes in urine color; drug history should be obtained if there is abnormal coloration of urine|
|1. Amorphous phosphates||White and cloudy on standing in alkaline urine||Disappear on addition of a drop of dilute acetic acid|
|2. Amorphous urates||Pink and cloudy in acid urine||Dissolve on warming|
|3. Pus cells||Varying grades of turbidity||Microscopy|
|4. Bacteria||Uniformly cloudy; do not settle at the bottom following centrifugation||Microscopy, Nitrite test|
- Fruity: Ketoacidosis, starvation
- Mousy or musty: Phenylketonuria
- Fishy: Urinary tract infection with Proteus, tyrosinaemia.
- Ammoniacal: Urinary tract infection with Escherichia coli, old standing urine.
- Foul: Urinary tract infection
- Sulfurous: Cystinuria.
1. Urinometer method: This method is based on the principle of buoyancy (i.e. the ability of a fluid to exert an upward thrust on a body placed in it). Urinometer (a hydrometer) is placed in a container filled with urine (Figure 819.1A). When solute concentration is high, upthrust of solution increases and urinometer is pushed up (high SG). If solute concentration is low, urinometer sinks further into the urine (low SG).
- Fill a measuring cylinder with 50 ml of urine.
- Lower urinometer gently into the urine and let it float freely.
- Let urinometer settle; it should not touch the sides or bottom of the cylinder.
- Take the reading of SG on the scale (lowest point of meniscus) at the surface of the urine.
- Take out the urinometer and immediately note the temperature of urine with a thermometer.
- Litmus paper test: A small strip of litmus paper is dipped in urine and any color change is noted. If blue litmus paper turns red, it indicates acid urine. If red paper turns blue, it indicates alkaline urine (Figure 819.2A).
- pH indicator paper: Reagent area (which is impregnated with bromothymol blue and methyl red) of indicator paper strip is dipped in urine sample and the color change is compared with the color guide provided. Approximate pH is obtained.
- pH meter: An electrode of pH meter is dipped in urine sample and pH is read off directly from the digital display. It is used if exact pH is required.