3 Things Your Urine Can Tell You About Your Health

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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Your urine color, transparency and frequency all provide insight into your well-being. Find out what your urine says about your health.

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As you might know from healthcare providers asking for a urine sample, your urine holds many clues about your health. Some of these clues—such as bacteria, glucose, drugs or blood cells in your urine—can only be discovered through a urinalysis, which only your doctor can perform. But there are some signs you can see for yourself whenever you go to the bathroom.

Urine Color

Urine can be many different colors, anywhere from clear to green. It can change throughout the day. Light, normal urine colors indicate different levels of hydration. Darker urine can be caused by certain medications, but also may signal something isn’t right, whether that’s dehydration or something more serious. The various urine colors include:

  • Transparent: Clear urine indicates you may be drinking too much water.
  • Very pale or straw colored: This color is normal and indicates you are drinking enough water.
  • Transparent yellow: Also normal, just slightly less hydrated.
  • Dark yellow: This color is normal, but you’re likely bordering on dehydration.
  • Amber or honey colored: You’re likely somewhat dehydrated. Drink more water or an oral rehydration solution you can buy at the grocery store or pharmacy.
  • Brownish: You may be really dehydrated, or maybe you just ate certain foods, like rhubarb or fava beans. There’s also a chance of liver disease. If drinking more water doesn’t clear up the problem, talk to your doctor.
  • Red or pink: Unless you’ve eaten a food that could make your pee red, like beets, this could be blood in your urine. Don’t panic, but talk to your doctor. It’s possible you have a urinary tract infection or something more serious, such as a kidney cyst, a kidney stone, kidney disease, a tumor, or a problem with your prostate (in men). Some medications may also turn your urine red.
  • Orange: You might be dehydrated, but orange urine may also indicate a problem with your liver or a bile duct. It could also be something as innocuous as a medication. Call your doctor to discuss.
  • Blue or green: This may be quite a surprise, but it isn’t necessarily serious. It could result from food dyes or medication. There’s a chance you have a rare hereditary metabolic condition or a urinary tract infection. If you have pain or if it doesn’t go away, contact your healthcare provider.
  • Very dark or black: This is more serious and could indicate copper or phenol poisoning, or it could signify cancer. Call your doctor right away. If you know of or suspect poisoning call 911 or the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222).
  • Cloudy or milky: Cloudy urine can indicate a urinary tract infection or a kidney stone. Call your doctor if it persists or if you have pain.
  • Foamy: This likely happens if you have a full bladder and your urine stream is very fast. Foamy urine isn’t concerning unless it persists, in which case it could indicate a problem with your kidneys. If it continues happening, call your doctor.

Frequent Urination

If you have to pee more than about 4 to 8 times a day, this is considered frequent urination. If you feel a sudden, urgent need to run to the bathroom, you may have overactive bladder syndrome. It’s common and not serious, but can be bothersome. Your doctor may be able to help. Another common cause of frequent urination is pregnancy, as the baby becomes heavier and puts more pressure on the bladder. This isn’t serious; you’ll just have to wait it out.

Frequent urination also has other causes, some of them serious. These include:

Urine With An Unpleasant Smell

Most of the time, urine doesn’t have much of a smell if you’re well hydrated. If you’re becoming dehydrated, your urine will be more concentrated and may smell like ammonia. For many people, eating asparagus gives their urine a stinky smell. This isn’t serious and will go away on its own.

If your urine persistently smells bad or musty, you may have bacteria in your urine or you could have liver disease. If your urine smells sweet, you may have uncontrolled diabetes. If you experience burning when you use the bathroom, or if you also have fever, chills or pain in your back along with foul-smelling urine, call your doctor.

What to Do If You Suspect a Problem

Just because you have darker yellow urine doesn’t necessarily mean you need to drink more water. Drink when you’re thirsty, and that should keep you well hydrated. If darker urine colors persist, if you experience pain when you urinate, or if you’re just concerned about what it means, call your doctor.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jan 4
View All Kidneys and the Urinary System Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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