Darkened Urine

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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What is darkened urine?

Darkened urine is urine that is dark yellow, brown, dark red, or red, and it may range from slightly dark to considerably dark. A change in urine color may be temporary, or it may be persistent. The duration and course of darkened urine can vary widely, depending on the cause.

There are several possible causes of darkened urine. Urinary tract infection is the most common cause, though other types of infections, or kidney dysfunction or disease, are other potential causes. Darkened urine may be related to acute or chronic underlying diseases that affect other regions of the body. For example, urine that is darker than normal may be a result of hepatic (liver) disease that may include the gallbladder. Further, cancer of the pancreas, liver, kidneys, and bladder can all cause urine to darken.

Your urine may turn dark if you have had any damage or injury to any of the structures of the urinary tract, including the kidney, bladder, urethras, or ureter. It may also darken as a result of eating certain foods, such as beets, red cabbage, red berries or candy, or ingesting anything that contains red dyes. Certain medications are known to change urine color, which will return to normal after the drug leaves the body.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice), or severe abdominal pain. Seek prompt medical care if you experience abdominal swelling and nausea with or without vomiting or if you are being treated for darkened urine but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.

What other symptoms might occur with darkened urine?

Darkened urine may accompany other symptoms, which will vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the urinary tract may also involve other body systems.

Urinary symptoms that may occur along with darkened urine

Darkened urine may accompany other symptoms affecting the urinary system including:

Other symptoms that may occur along with darkened urine

Darkened urine may accompany symptoms related to other body systems including:

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

In some cases, darkened urine may be a symptom of a life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these life-threatening symptoms:

  • High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)

What causes darkened urine?

In some cases, darkened urine is a result of medications or consuming specific foods. Darkened urine may also be the result of bleeding, infections, cancers or other serious conditions.

Urinary system causes of darkened urine

Darkened urine may be caused by conditions affecting the urinary system including:

Other causes of darkened urine

Darkened urine can also be caused by other conditions including:

  • Cancer (specifically melanoma)

  • Certain foods with dark red color (for example, beets or blackberries) or foods containing dyes that are red

  • Certain medications

  • Gallbladder disorders

  • Hemolytic anemia (condition characterized by the destruction of red blood cells)

  • Liver disease

  • Porphyria (enzyme deficiency that affects many organs)

  • Prostatitis (prostate infection)

  • Rhabdomyolysis (breakdown of muscle tissue)

Serious or life-threatening causes of darkened urine

In some cases, darkened urine may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated by a health care provider. These include:

  • Cancers, such as tumors arising in the bladder, prostate, kidney or pancreas

  • Liver disease (includes any type of liver problem, such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure)

  • Trauma to the urinary system

  • Wilms’ tumor (type of childhood kidney cancer)

Questions for diagnosing the cause of darkened urine

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your darkened urine including:

  • When did you first notice darkened urine?

  • What medications are you taking?

  • What would you say is the color of your urine?

  • Are you urinating more or less frequently?

  • Do you have any other symptoms?

  • Does your urine have an odor?

  • Is there blood in your urine?

  • Is your urine always this color?

What are the potential complications of darkened urine?

Because darkened urine can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications that may cause permanent damage or may even be life threatening. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Kidney damage

  • Liver damage

  • Sepsis (life-threatening bacterial blood infection)

  • Spread of cancer

  • Spread of infection

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jan 6
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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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  2. Urine - bloody. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003138.htm.
  3. Collins RD. Differential Diagnosis in Primary Care, 5th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Williams, 2012.