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What is Urine Specific Gravity?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Urine specific gravity is a measurement of the volume of particles in the urine. It is performed as part of a routine urinalysis, an examination of a urine sample. Urinalysis is an important diagnostic tool that allows lab technicians to run a number of tests on a urine sample to provide information about a patient's health. In cases where suspected kidney or bladder disease are involved, the urinalysis can be used to narrow down possible diagnoses so that a treatment plan can be developed.

Urine is a blend of fluids and concentrated molecules expressed by the kidneys. These molecules are waste materials that the body cannot use. When the concentration of particles in the urine is high, it can be an indicator that a patient is dehydrated or experiencing another medical problem like heart failure. When the concentration is unusually low, it means that the patient may be consuming too many fluids, and may have a condition such as diabetes.

In the urine specific gravity test, the patient is asked for a clean catch sample. The patient washes or wipes the genitals before urinating to clear any contaminants in the urethra and then urinates into a sample cup. The contents of the cup are analyzed in the lab. Many clinics have the ability to run basic tests in house and can return results very quickly. Such samples are often collected at the start of a medical visit so that the urinalysis can be done while the patient is being examined, providing results by the end of the appointment.

Determining urine specific gravity can be done very quickly, efficiently, and cheaply. Low-cost and low-technology evaluation and assessment tools are important in many clinical settings. Using a low cost test can eliminate the need for a more expensive test or procedure. This saves money for the patient and also reduces the need for invasive medical tests that might put the patient at risk.

There are some things that can skew urinalysis results and cause problems with the test. Some medications can interfere with the ability to concentrate the urine, making the urine more or less concentrated than unusual. Patients who have undergone medical imaging studies with contrast media will also have unusually high urine specific gravity because their kidneys are working overtime to express the contrast medium. Surgery can be another factor that may interfere with the reliability of the test. Patients should alert their doctors to any recent events in their medical history before the urine specific gravity test is performed.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By wavy58 — On Oct 12, 2012

@giddion – Cloudy urine can also indicate a kidney problem. I have friends who have had severe kidney stones in the past, and when they urinated in a cup, the liquid was very cloudy.

This was part of their diagnosis. I think the extreme pain spoke for itself, though. They both had to have their stones busted up by a laser, and they each had to wear a catheter while passing them.

I've never had cloudy urine, but I would be worried if I did. Every time I've gone in for a urinalysis, it's been part of a yearly exam, and I suppose that my urine specific gravity must have been normal.

By giddion — On Oct 11, 2012

I have polycystic kidney disease, and I have a yearly urine specific gravity test. One of the things that the doctor checks for is protein in my urine.

If I have a lot of protein present, this means that my kidneys aren't filtering it out as well as they should. Currently, my kidney function is normal. However, with my disease, it is expected to decline over the years.

Going in for an annual test makes me feel better. At least if my kidneys do start to fail, the urine test will let me know in time to do something about it.

By Perdido — On Oct 11, 2012

@OeKc05 – As long as you let your doctor know you will be on your period, you should be fine. I've had a urine test while menstruating, and the results were normal.

You do have to put the cup as far away from your body as possible while urinating, though. This way, if any blood tries to ooze out, it won't make it into the cup. Since menstrual blood is usually thick and gooey, you'll notice it before it manages to reach the cup.

The only thing that might show up in your test is high hormone levels. However, if your doctor already knows it's that time of the month, she will take this into consideration and not be alarmed by it.

By OeKc05 — On Oct 10, 2012

If I have this kind of test during my period, will the results show a normal urine specific gravity, or will the blood affect the outcome? I have my yearly appointment next week, but I'm going to be menstruating then. Should I reschedule?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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