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Urinary Tract and Kidney Disease Symptoms and Signs Medical Terminology

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Readers often encounter words pertaining specifically to urinary tract and kidney disease symptoms and signs but the text does not define them.  Acquaintance with some of the more common of those terms as well as other related but less specific ones can improve understanding of a topic.  It can also serve to promote health literacy in this area.

Medical terminology    


Anuria – It is the total or near absence of urine production and excretion. Objectively, it is a urine output of less than 100 mL in a day. – Anuric – adj. 

Dysuria – Is painful urination.  The pain is often burning.  Infection of the urinary tract is a common cause.  Some sexually transmitted diseases and stones of the urinary tract are some other causes. – Dysuric – adj.      

Hematuria – Is the presence of blood in the urine.  When seen with the naked eye it is gross hematuriaMicroscopic hematuria is blood in the urine which is not grossly visible.  It requires a light microscope to detect.  A positive urine dipstick test for blood is often a clue that it exists.  

Nocturia – Is the excessive need to get out of bed and urinate during the night. Opinions vary asked to how often that is.  The consensus of many though is more than once in a 6-8 hour period.  It can be a symptom of chronic kidney failure but other conditions including diabetes and congestive heart failure can also cause it.

Oliguria – It is decreased urine output. In objective terms, it is less than 0.5 mL/kg/h of urine output for more than 6 hours. This means the urine output volume is less than 0.5 milliliters per 2.2 lbs. of body weight per hour. For example, it would be less than 38.56 mL per hour for a person weighing 170 lbs. – Oliguric – adj.

Polyuria – Is the passage of an excessive amount (>2.5 L) of urine in a 24-hour period.  There is usually frequent urination along with it.  It is sometimes a sign of early renal failure.  But there are other more common causes unrelated to kidney disease.  Diabetes is one of them.    

Proteinuria – Is an abnormal amount of protein in the urine. The protein of concern is albumin.  Albuminuria is the term for the presence of albumin in the urine. The test that measures it compares the amount of albumin in a sample of urine with the amount of creatinine.  The name for this test is the albumin-to-creatinine ratio.  A value of greater than 30 mg of albumin for each gram of creatinine is a marker of chronic kidney disease.   


Pyuria – Is the presence of white blood cells (pus) in the urine.  It is usually a sign of infection of the urinary tract.  

Renal colic – It is severe, usually sharp pain caused by a kidney stone(s).  It is usually in the kidney disease symptomsflank (loin) that overlies the involved kidney or ureter. With passage of the stone into or further down the ureter the pain often radiates into the upper anterior abdomen and/or groin.  It often occurs in waves as the ureter goes into spasm in its attempt to overcome the obstruction.  

Urinary frequency – Is the need to urinate several times during the day ± the night. Causes include UTI, overactive bladder, BPH and urinary tract stones.

Urinary urgency – Is the sensation of the urge to urinate.  

Urinary hesitancy – Is a decrease in the force of flow of the urine stream. The difficulty is most often at the beginning of the flow. It is most often due to partial blockage in the final portion of the urinary tract.  In man, the cause of the blockage is usually an enlarged prostate.  In women it is narrowing of the opening from the bladder into the urethra.         

Urinary incontinence – Is the lack of control of urination.  Stress incontinence is the leakage of urine which occurs during certain activities.  Those activities increase abdominal pressure, causing descent of the bladder where it joins the urethra.  It occurs due to a weakness in the sphincter (muscle) that joins those two structures.  Sneezing, coughing, laughing, and strenuous physical activity are common triggers. Urge incontinence is that which occurs with the sense of a strong urge to urinate.  It appears to be due to an overly active bladder muscle.  The cause is often unknown. It often accompanies an overactive bladder. Overflow incontinence is that which occurs because of the inability to completely empty the bladder.  Causes include weakness of the bladder muscle; disturbance of the function of the nerves to the bladder; partial bladder outflow obstruction; and certain medications.  

Urinary retention – Is a state of incomplete emptying of the bladder. Causes of it include bladder outflow tract obstruction and problems with the function of the nerves or muscles involved in urination.



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