What Is the Purpose of Urea?

Medically Reviewed on 2/4/2021

Urea has some medicinal uses.
Urea has some medicinal uses.

Urea has some medicinal uses. It has been used as one of the ingredients in topical creams that help hydrate the skin. Skin hydration is the mainstay of therapy in many conditions in which there is excessive dryness of the skin. Urea-containing creams are used in the treatment of:

  • Psoriasis
  • Xerosis (abnormally dry skin, more common in old people)
  • Onychomycosis (fungal infection of the nail)
  • Ichthyosis (a hereditary skin condition that causes dry, thickened, and scaly skin)
  • Corns (hardened layers of skin, commonly found over the feet)
  • Calluses (areas of thickened skin, most common over hands and feet)

Other uses of urea include:

  • Nail removal: Urea 40% ointment is applied over the diseased area of the nail, such as a fungus-infected portion of the nail. Urea softens that section of the nail over the next 7-10 days. The doctor can then separate the diseased nail easily from the rest of the nail. This is a good option for the nonsurgical removal of the nails.
  • Ear drops: Urea is also used in the preparation of ear drops for wax removal.

Which are the laboratory tests related to urea?

Urea breath test

Urea labeled with carbon-14 or carbon-13 is used in the urea breath test. This is a special test to detect the presence of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) in the stomach and small intestine of humans with stomach ulcers. A positive urea breath test means that you have an H. pylori infection. Based upon the result, the doctor decides whether to initiate antibiotic therapy.

Blood urea nitrogen test

Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) test is a part of a kidney function test or renal function test that assesses how well your kidneys are working. It measures the level of nitrogen in your blood that comes from urea. Indirectly, it is also a measure of urea in your blood.

What happens if the urea level is high?

A high urea level is usually indicative of two conditions: either your consumption of protein is too high or there is the decreased capacity of your kidney to filter out urea from the blood. This is seen in kidney diseases such as chronic kidney disease (CKD). Other conditions that increase urea levels in your body include:

If urea is not removed from the body, it can lead to a condition known as uremia or uremic syndrome. Uremia is a buildup of urea and other nitrogen wastes in the blood that can damage the brain.

Uremia can happen because of:

Symptoms of uremia include:


What percentage of the human body is water? See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 2/4/2021
Gounden V, Bhatt H, Jialal I. Renal Function Tests. [Updated 2020 Jul 20]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507821/

Uremia. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/245296-overview

Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/h-pylori/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20356177