Thursday, February 14, 2013

Urine Testing 1940's and Beyond

I was diagnosed in 1945, when I was 6. There was no blood testing device for home use at that time, so my father tested my urine every morning. That was the only test done each day. Benedict's solution was placed in a test tube and 8 drops of urine were added. The tube was placed into a tin can containing about two inches of water. The can was placed on a burner on the stove, and the water was boiled. The tube was then removed from the can, and the color was observed. The picture below shows the possible colors that might have been seen. The original color of the Benedict's solution was blue. If the color was still blue after the boiling, then there was 0% sugar in the urine. If the urine contained sugar then there was a progression of colors that could appear. Blue-green showed a trace of sugar. The higher sugar levels showed green, yellow, orange, and red. Red was the color I always hated to see because it represented very high blood sugar. 

Urine testing was a very poor indication of the amount of sugar in the blood. I usually had a lot of urine sugar before breakfast. My doctor did not suggest testing urine sugar at any other time of day. We should have been given instructions to test my urine before each meal, but more frequent testing could have been misleading. If I did not pass any urine between breakfast and lunch,   there would still be sugar in my urine if the morning test showed a significant amount of sugar. The urine test would have shown high sugar, but the blood sugar might have been low due to the effect of the insulin taken that morning. There was usually very poor correlation between the amounts of sugar in the urine and the blood at any time of day. 
Later on there was a better way of testing urine, called CliniTest. It involved placing a tablet in a test tube containing water and urine. The mixture would fizzle and become very hot. Then the mixture would show some color. Comparison of the color with a chart provided the estimated amount of sugar in the urine. The picture below shows the apparatus used in performing the CliniTest procedure.
No doctor ever told me about CliniTest, so I continued using the Benedicts solution and boiling the mixture on a stove. It was not until the mid 1980s that I bought my first glucose meter to test my blood. My diabetes management became so much easier, and more accurate, with the actual blood sugar levels being revealed several times each day.


  1. Thank you for the history. I think it's a great reminder that we shouldn't take today's devices for granted.

  2. Thanks Scot!! That was my show how much better we have it in modern times.

  3. Whenever I look back at the "remember when" images of past, I am in awe that we ever used them, and that there was something used even before that!

    I used Clinitest when I was diagnosed in 1981, and knowing what I know now, I can't imagine how it kept me alive and healthy. And that there was stuff used even before that which also worked.

    Thanks for the reminder... and where on earth did you find those photos?

  4. Hi Scott E. those photos are on Google. Many photos involving old diabetes equipment can be found there. It takes time, patience, and the proper choice of key words. Thanks for your reply!