What Does the Presence of Squamous Epithelial Cells in a Urinalysis Mean?

According to the John Hopkins Lupus Center, the presence of squamous epithelial cells in a urine sample is generally an indicator that the sample has been tainted.

According to Lab Tests Online, epithelial cells can signal urogenital disorders such as infections, inflammation, and cancers. Based on microscopic examination, clinicians typically report the number of squamous epithelial cells in a urine specimen as few, moderate, or many. The terms “few” and “moderate” can both allude to a normal range, whereas “many” can indicate the existence of a medical issue.

Squamous Epithelial Cells: What Are They?

Squamous epithelial cells are found throughout the body and function to cover a specific structure or cavity. They can be found covering numerous levels of the human body, both inside and out, and are commonly mistaken for skin cells. Squamous cells, for example, can be found in the mouth, cervix, and middle skin layers.

Instead of being cube-shaped, squamous epithelial cells are flat and thin. They are the smallest epithelial cells with the largest surface area. Because of their structure, molecules may readily pass through their membrane, making them ideal for filtration and diffusion.

What does a microscopic examination entail?

A test tube of urine is centrifuged to separate the components in microscopic urinalysis. The top layer, or supernatant, is discarded. The urine sediment and residual pee are then examined under a low-power microscope. Squamous cells, crystals, and casts are all identified this way. The sample is next studied at high resolution to look for bacteria, extra cells such as red and white blood cells, and cell clumping.

What Kinds of Epithelial Cells Can Be Found in Urine?

The urinary system is lined with three different types of cells. There are also renal tubular cells and transitional cells, in addition to squamous cells. According to Lab Tests Online, determining the type of epithelial cells present in a urine sample can assist a doctor establish whether the cells are from the bladder, urethra, kidneys, or somewhere else. The kidneys include renal tubular cells, while the bladder and uterus have transitional cells.

Is it normal to have a certain number of Squamous Epithelial Cells in your urine?

A urinary tract infection could be indicated by the absence of any squamous epithelial cells in the urine. A sample of 15 to 20 squamous epithelial cells/hpf is deemed typical in most cases. Anything higher than that means the sample could be tainted. In that situation, the doctor will ask for another sample.

What Else Can High Levels of Squamous Cells Indicate Besides Contamination?

If there are a lot of cells in another, fresh sample, it could mean you have a urinary tract infection. A yeast infection, renal disease, or liver disease could all be symptoms of a moderate or large number of cells.

Cancer can also be connected to squamous epithelial cells. The most frequent type of oral cavity cancer and the second most prevalent type of skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. When found early enough, the latter form spreads to other parts of the body but is easily treated.

If the patient has a moderate or large number of squamous cells, the doctor will perform additional tests and analyse the patient’s symptoms to determine if a medical condition exists and what steps may be taken to correct it.

Misha Khatri
Misha Khatri is an emeritus professor in the University of Notre Dame's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BSc in Chemistry and Mathematics and a PhD in Physical Analytical Chemistry from the University of Utah.


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