Epithelial cells in urine may be a cause for concern if the numbers are higher than normal. The sloughing of epithelia is quite a normal process of the body sheddingdead cells and creating new ones. If epithelial cells are high in your urine it could signal a problem with your kidneys or an infection in your urinary system. This article will examine some possible causes of epithelial cells in urine and what urinalysis means.
Indications of Epithelial Cells in Urine
It is normal for both women and men to have a small amount of epithelial cells that shed from the bladder in their urine. It is rare to see epithelial cells from the kidneys. Urine testing should move forward to see where exactly the cells are coming from and the exact number of them. An abnormal result could be caused by a large amount of sediment in the urine. This means your fluid intake should be increased and urine retested.
If the quantity of epithelial cells in your urine continues to elevate, this could mean:
1. Normal Tissue Sloughing
It is quite normal for the epithelial tissue to slough off cells. Your ureters and bladder all have epithelial tissue that regenerates. The cells normally appear in very small amount in the urine.
2. Kidney Disease
If you have a very large amount of epithelial cells in urine, there may be a kidney issue. The lab can look for certain cells that may be coming from the renal tubules, which are responsible for producing urine and filtering the blood. They are round with large nuclei and could signal the nephrotic syndrome. This is usually caused by kidney damage.
3. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Urinary tract infections start in the urethra and inch their way up into your bladder. Irritation to the bladder lining cause irritation and sloughing of the bladder epithelial cells. There even might be some renal epithelial cells if the UTI becomes severe enough.
Having epithelial cells in urine are most often the result of inflammatory processes associated with an infection. However, there may be more serious causes for this condition and your doctor needs to look into the cause very carefully. If you have a random urine test come back with epithelial cells in it, have your doctor test more thoroughly to make sure it isn’t anything to be concerned about.
If your urine has a lot of sediment or your genitals are not clean, you may have epithelial cells in your urine sample that come from elsewhere. Large amounts of cells may just be that you did not use the provided wipes to clean your genitals or the cups you used for collection may have been soiled. Never touch the inside of a urine collection container before using. If you believe the sample may have been contaminated, ask to have the test repeated.
The Normal Range of Epithelial Cells in Urine
Having some epithelial cells in urine is usually nothing to be worried about. Doctors attribute this to a specimen that was most likely contaminated from the outside of the urinary tract. However, a large amount of cells warrants a look under the microscope in the lab. They can tell where the cells are coming from and do further workup to find the problem. The ranges for epithelial cells are: few, moderate or many, but can also be measured in numbers. The normal range of epithelial cells in urine is less than 15-20 cells per high power field (HPF).
What You Need to Know About Urinalysis
A urinalysis is done as either part of your yearly physical, prior to surgery, or if you are experiencing symptoms when you urinate. The doctor usually collects a small amount in the office and does a “dipstick” test to see if there are any preliminary results. They then send it off to the lab for a full urinalysis to look for:
- Color, cloudiness, and concentration
- Chemical composition
- Microscopic examination (epithelial cells and bacteria)
A full urinalysis can find urinary tract infection, kidney damage/disease, diabetes, or kidney stones. It can also look for problems all the way up into the kidneys which include:
Bacteria are only present if there is a urinary tract infection.
If creatinine levels are high in urine it could indicate that your kidneys are not working well. Creatinine is a byproduct of muscle breakdown.
Crystals are not normally present in the urine, and could be a sign that there is too high a concentration of another substance in the urine.
Casts form in the renal tubules and do not usually pass into the urine. Its presence can indicate a kidney issue.
5. Epithelial Cells
These are the cells that line the kidneys, ureters, bladder and the urethra. Each type of cell has its own makeup so the lab can tell where they are from under the microscope.
The results of a urinalysis can help the doctor understand the reason for abnormalities. A few of the reasons include:
- High cholesterol (cholesterol crystals)
- Kidney disease (casts present)
- Renal pelvis inflammation (casts present)
- Diabetes (glucose in urine and crystals)