A dipstick — a thin, plastic stick with strips of chemicals on it — is placed in the urine to detect abnormalities.
The chemical strips change color if certain substances are present or if their levels are above normal.
A dipstick test checks for:
- Acidity (pH). The pH level indicates the amount of acid in urine. Abnormal pH levels may indicate a kidney or urinary tract disorder.
- Concentration. A measure of concentration, or specific gravity, shows how concentrated particles are in your urine. A higher than normal concentration often is a result of not drinking enough fluids.
- Protein. Low levels of protein in urine are normal. Small increases in protein in urine usually aren’t a cause for concern, but larger amounts may indicate a kidney problem.
- Sugar. Normally the amount of sugar (glucose) in urine is too low to be detected. Any detection of sugar on this test usually calls for follow-up testing for diabetes.
- Ketones. As with sugar, any amount of ketones detected in your urine could be a sign of diabetes and requires follow-up testing.
- Bilirubin. Bilirubin is a product of red blood cell breakdown. Normally, bilirubin is carried in the blood and passes into your liver, where it’s removed and becomes part of bile. Bilirubin in your urine may indicate liver damage or disease.
- Evidence of infection. If either nitrites or leukocyte esterase — a product of white blood cells — is detected in your urine, it may be a sign of a urinary tract infection.
- Blood. Blood in your urine requires additional testing — it may be a sign of kidney damage, infection, kidney or bladder stones, kidney or bladder cancer, or blood disorders.