Epithelial Cells In Urine


Urinalysis: Epithelial Cells in Urine?

So a recent urinalysis came back and now you are left wondering if having epithelial cells in urine is a bad thing, right? It is not necessarily a bad thing to have epithelial cells present in a urine sample. However, high amounts of certain types of epithelial cells could be a bad sign that some sort of disease is at work.



What are epithelial cells?

Epithelial cells are those which make up the epithelium tissue. This is a membrane that covers all tissues and organs, nooks and crannies found in the body. Because the epithelium also lines the urinary tract, it is not altogether uncommon to find epithelial cells in urine as the urine may naturally carry a few of the cells with it as it passes through the body. Epithelial cells are broken down into three different types, depending on the location of the cells. Squamous epithelial cells are found on the surface of the skin, inside the vagina, and on the outer portion of the urethra. Transitional epithelial cells are another type and are found in the ureter, in the bladder, and in the renal pelvis. The final type of epithelial cell is called renal tubular. These are found within the kidney.

When does the presence of epithelial cells in urine signify a problem?

To start off, epithelial cells are usually detected during the process of examining a urine sample under a microscope. The initial detection happens fairly early in the lab work; however it is not determined how many epithelial cells are present until one of the last phases of the urinalysis. There are about four terms used to describe the level of occurrence, which are “occasional,” “moderate,” “few,” and many. If a large amount of transitional or renal tubular epithelial cells are detected, it generally points to the possibility of an underlying disease. If a large amount of squamous epithelial cells are present, then the lab usually suspects that the urine sample has been contaminated. In this case, one would likely be asked to give another urine sample.

What measures should be taken to avoid urine contamination?

In order to avoid having a “returned” urine sample, there are a few tips you should remember. First, wash your hands before you give the urine sample. Sometimes we forget that our hands touch hundreds of surfaces throughout the day and any one bacteria or other item could cause an invalid test result.  To ensure that the urine sample is “clean,” you may want to wipe the area before dispensing urine into the cup. Fill the cup about 75% full, stop the flow of urine if you can, and place the lid on the cup. Finish emptying your bladder into the toilet.

What diseases could cause epithelial cells in urine?

One of the most common illnesses that could cause an overabundance of tubular epithelial cells in the urine is a bladder infection. A bladder infection occurs when the bladder becomes inflamed, usually due to the presence of bacteria. They are very common among women. In fact, it is estimated that about 20% of all women will experience a bladder infection at some point in their life. Bladder infections should be treated as quickly as possible to avoid the spread of the bacteria from the bladder to the kidneys. Many people do not have any symptoms, although general discomfort and trouble emptying the bladder can occur. This type of infection can usually be treated with ease if it is caught early on.

A high count of renal tubular epithelial cells in a urine sample could be caused by a kidney infection or another illness which may hinder the kidneys from operating at optimum levels. Any illness which affects the kidneys could result in long term damage if treatment is not administered quickly.