Cloudy Urine: What Causes It and What to Do

Medically Reviewed By Joseph Brito III, MD
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Urine may appear cloudy for a variety of reasons, some of which are not harmful, such as foaming of the urine that occurs temporarily when urinating rapidly. However, when urine is persistently cloudy, hazy, or milky, it can be a symptom of an underlying condition. Healthy urine is clear and light yellow.

Cloudy urine can happen due to a variety of conditions, including vaginal dischargesexually transmitted infections (STIs)dehydration, certain autoimmune conditions, infection, inflammation, and other conditions of the urinary tract.

Cloudy urine can also result from conditions that affect other body systems in addition to the urinary tract. These conditions include diabetespreeclampsia, and heart disease.

Cloudy urine can occur in all age groups and populations, and it may or may not occur with additional symptoms, such as a foul urine odor and a burning sensation.

Read on to learn more about when to contact a doctor for cloudy urine and what might be causing the cloudiness.

What causes cloudy urine?

a woman wearing a pink shirt is talking to a doctor
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Cloudy urine is often the result of infection, inflammation, or another condition of the urinary tract (which comprises the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra) or the reproductive organs. The presence of a small amount of blood in the urine that is not visible to the naked eye can also cause cloudy urine.

Cloudy urine can also happen due to conditions of other body systems and those that cause the excretion of protein in the urine, which can cloud urine when present in high levels. These conditions include diabetes, heart disease, and preeclampsia.

Urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can include bladder infections, or cystitis, and kidney infections, or pyelonephritis. UTIs develop when bacteria travel up toward the bladder from the urethra or for other reasons, including fistulas.

UTIs cause the bladder to become swollen and sore. Alongside cloudy urine, symptoms of a UTI include:

UTIs can also cause blood in the urine. However, this might be a symptom of another condition, such as bladder cancer.

Kidney infections

Kidney infections happen when the bacteria reach the kidneys. Symptoms of a kidney infection include:

Kidney infections require immediate medical treatment to prevent the bacteria from spreading into the bloodstream and causing further, potentially life threatening complications.

Bladder cancer

One of the most common symptoms of bladder cancer is blood in the urine. In small amounts, the blood may make the urine look cloudy. In other cases, the urine may look pink, orange, or dark. In some people, however, it appears its usual color.

In its early stages, bladder cancer often does not cause symptoms. However, some people may notice:

  • frequent urination
  • a burning pain while urinating
  • bladder urgency
  • difficulty urinating
  • needing to wake up to urinate

These symptoms are easily confusable with those of a UTI. It is important to contact a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

Other causes of cloudy urine

Some other possible causes of cloudy urine include:

What other symptoms might occur with cloudy urine?

Cloudy urine may occur alongside other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying condition. Therefore, symptoms may affect any part of the body.

Possible coexisting urinary tract symptoms

Urinary tract symptoms that can occur with cloudy urine include:

  • abdominal or flank pain, which can affect your abdomen, side, or back
  • abnormal coloring of the urine, which may appear dark, tea-colored, bloody, or pink-tinged
  • bladder spasms, which may cause pain or cramps in the lower abdominal area
  • dribbling urine, or incontinence
  • foul-smelling urine
  • frequent urination or a decrease in urination
  • painful urination or a burning pain with urination
  • urgent urination

Possible coexisting symptoms related to other body systems

Symptoms related to other organs or body systems that can occur with cloudy urine may include:

When to contact a doctor

In some cases, cloudy urine can indicate a serious or life threatening underlying condition, such as a kidney infection. It may also suggest urosepsis

Seek prompt medical care if you have persistently cloudy urine. Timely diagnosis and prompt treatment of the underlying cause can reduce the risk of serious complications, such as kidney failure and shock.

Seek immediate medical care by calling 911 if you or someone you are with have any of the following life threatening symptoms:

  • bloody urine
  • changes in consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness
  • changes in mental status or sudden behavior changes, such as confusion, delirium, lethargyhallucinations, or delusions
  • disorientation
  • high fever higher than 101ºF (38ºC)
  • an inability to urinate
  • seizures
  • severe abdominal pain or flank pain along your abdomen, side, or lower back
  • tremors or trembling

What are the potential complications of cloudy urine?

Complications of cloudy urine vary depending on the underlying condition. Complications of untreated or uncontrolled conditions, such as diabetes and kidney infection, can be serious and even life threatening.

Once a doctor has identified the underlying cause, you can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan that you and your healthcare professional design specifically for you.

Over time, without proper treatment, the underlying causes of cloudy urine can lead to serious complications, including:

Frequently asked questions about cloudy urine

Read our expert’s answers to your frequently asked questions.

Medications and cloudy urine

Q:

Can certain medications cause cloudy urine?

Anonymous

A:

Various medications can lead to urine discoloration, which can make urine appear cloudy.

For instance, phenazopyridine (Pyridium) is a commonly used urinary tract analgesic that turns the urine orange.

Amitriptyline and indomethacin can lead to blue or green discoloration.

Certain antibiotics, like Flagyl and nitrofurantoin, can lead to brownish discoloration.

If you have recently started a new medication and notice urine discoloration, you might wish to check with your physician to see if this might be a known side effect.

Joseph Brito, MD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

Cloudy urine with no infection

Q:

Can urine be cloudy without an infection?

Anonymous

A:

Absolutely.

As mentioned above, many medications can lead to discolored urine that can seem cloudy, including many antibiotics designed to treat infections.

Certain foods, such as beets, can also lead to cloudy or discolored urine.

Moderate amounts of blood in the urine, which occurs with kidney stones and bladder cancer, can also cause the urine to have a cloudy appearance.

Joseph Brito, MD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

Cloudy urine and diet

Q:

Can certain foods cause cloudy urine?

Anonymous

A:

Yes.

I mentioned beets above, which are known to cause reddish discoloration.

Consuming large amounts of certain beans can also lead to brownish cloudy discoloration.

Dietary supplements high in B vitamins can also lead to bright yellow or orange discoloration.

You should take any significant changes in urine color to the attention of your physician, especially if the urine appears red, as this could indicate a serious condition.

Joseph Brito, MD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

Summary

Cloudy urine is most often the result of an infection, such as a UTI. If you have a UTI, you may also notice tenderness in the lower stomach and a burning sensation when you urinate.

However, other causes of cloudy urine include STIs, kidney stones, and dietary imbalances.

If you notice cloudy urine, you should seek advice from a medical professional. The causes of cloudy urine could develop into potentially serious complications.

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Medical Reviewer: Joseph Brito III, MD
Last Review Date: 2022 Jan 28
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