What is the Significance of Increased Epithelial Cells in Urine?

Mary McMahon

Epithelial cells in urine can provide some information of diagnostic use, depending on the type of cells involved and the numbers present in the sample of urine. Usually, the information is most useful when paired with other findings from a urinalysis, along with the patient's report of symptoms. A typical urinalysis report will note if epithelial cells were found in the sample and will provide information about the type and numbers.

A new urine sample may need to be taken if the number of squamous cells in the urine are high.
A new urine sample may need to be taken if the number of squamous cells in the urine are high.

Epithelial cells are cells from the epithelium, the lining that covers the inside and outside of the body. They slough off routinely as new cells develop and old, dead ones flake away. Different areas of the body have distinct epithelial cells. Pathologists can see squamous, renal, and transitional epithelial cells in urine when they spin the urine to separate out the sediment.

Epithelial cells paired with blood in the urine can be a sign of infection.
Epithelial cells paired with blood in the urine can be a sign of infection.

Squamous epithelial cells are found along the genitals and on the outside of the body. Some usually show up in a urine sample because they are carried away by the stream of urine. Large numbers can be suggestive of contamination. The patient may not have carefully wiped before collecting a sample, allowing material from the outside of the body to enter the cup along with the urine sample.

Transitional epithelial cells in urine are also common. These cells line the urethra and bladder. In a person with an active inflammation, more cells may be shed as a result of irritation. Likewise, injuries can cause an increase in transitional epithelial cells. Paired with findings like blood in the urine and bacteria, they can be a sign of an infection.

Renal tubular epithelial cells are not a good sign. While a few may slip through, if they are present in large numbers, it is indicative of a problem with the kidneys. Other findings from the urinalysis can provide more information about what is happening in the kidneys and a doctor may also request a blood test to get an idea of how efficiently the kidneys are functioning.

If testing shows epithelial cells in urine, it is important to find out what kinds of cells are involved and in what concentrations. Minor numbers of epithelial cells in urine are generally not a cause for concern. If the numbers of squamous cells are high, a new urine sample may need to be taken to get a cleaner collection of urine for testing. Increased numbers of renal tubular cells call for additional testing to find out more about what is happening inside the patient.

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Discussion Comments


My urine test indicated epethelial cell 8-10 and puss cell 0-3. What does it mean?


I had a m/c/s test recently but there was epithelial cells present about 0.4 percent, and I was given the antibiotic Augumentin. Does that mean there is a serious problem or what does that means?


There are three kinds of epithelial cells found in urine: Squamous, Transitional, and Renal Tubular. The largest, Squamous epithelial cells, are by far the most common and usually represent nothing more than a contaminated urine specimen (not a clean catch). Transitional epithelial cells, if present in large numbers, could indicate some disease process going on. Renal tubular epithelial cells can be found (rarely) in normal urine in small numbers, but if found in large numbers, they almost certainly indicate a serious kidney problem.


I am pregnant, and I feel feverish, especially during night, and my urine is containing more epithelial cells. I just want to know what is the reason behind it?


My urine test report pus cells 1-2/hpf; epi cells-occ/hpf.


@fBoyle-- Yes, you can. They will be the tiny clear colored substances floating on the urine. They will not sink to the bottom.

When it comes to the amount of epithelial cells in urine, I think the time of the urine test is also important. If the urine test is done in the morning with the first urine of the day, there are bound to be more epithelial cells. This is because the urine has been collecting for many hours during the night.


Can I see epithelial cells in urine with a naked eye?

I had a urine test recently due to pain in my lower back. My urine test showed epithelial cells as well as sediment.

I was freaking out about it until I spoke to my doctor. He said that it's normal to have epithelial cells in a urine test because they're constantly being renewed and the old cells end up in the urine.

My pain was apparently due to kidney sand. That's what the sediment was. He just told me to drink a lot of water and that the sediment would clear up on its own.

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