What Causes Sediment in the Urine?
This article explains the different causes of sediment in the urine and the treatments.
Sediment in the urine can signify dehydration.
Dehydration happens when you don’t have enough water in your body. Water is usually lost through the body by sweating, breathing, urinating, and passing stool. Your body replenishes its water intake through fluids and food. However, certain illnesses or malnutrition can cause the body to become dehydrated.
Dehydration can cause urine to be dark yellow or light brown in color. Dehydration also places you more at risk of kidney stones, which can cause sediment in the urine. You can usually treat mild dehydration by increasing fluid and electrolyte intake. Moderate to severe dehydration may require intravenous fluids and medication for treatment.
Read our guide on how to stay hydrated.
To diagnose a urinary tract infection, a doctor will look at your urine under a microscope to check for the presence of bacteria. This bacteria can sometimes present as sediment in the urine. However, you can also have completely clear urine and still have a urinary tract infection.
Urinary tract infections occur when bacteria from the skin, vagina, or rectum enter the urinary tract, causing infection. Urinary tract infections can be more common in people assigned female at birth because the urethra is shorter in length than in people assigned male at birth, so bacteria have a shorter distance to travel to reach the bladder.
Doctors usually treat urinary tract infections with a course of antibiotics to help clear the infection.
Learn when to see a doctor for a urinary tract infection.
A kidney infection is a complication of a urinary tract infection and happens when bacteria enter the kidneys. It can also occur due to kidney stones or an enlarged prostate. People with kidney infections often have a fever, chills, flank pain, and blood, pus, or sediment in the urine.
Like urinary tract infections, kidney infections are treatable with antibiotics. If the infection is mild, oral antibiotics will treat the infection. However, if the infection is moderate or severe, sometimes people need intravenous antibiotics.
A bladder infection is a common type of urinary tract infection and happens when bacteria travel through the urethra and enter the bladder. Another name for bladder infections is cystitis.
Symptoms of a bladder infection are similar to that of a urinary tract infection and include frequent urination, dark or cloudy urine, or sediment in the urine.
Doctors usually treat bladder infections with oral antibiotics.
A kidney stone is a hard stone in the kidney that chemicals in the urine create. Kidney stones form when there is too much waste in the urine and too little liquid. When this happens, crystals in the urine form into a solid mass. Some kidney stones are as small as a grain of sand, while others are the size of a pebble.
The crystals that form in the kidney can lead to sediment in the urine.
Doctors treat kidney stones by lithotripsy, which is a procedure that uses high energy sound waves to blast the stones and break them into smaller pieces. This makes it easier to pass the stones.
The doctor may also ask you to drink a lot of water, and they may prescribe medication for you to help make the urine less acidic.
Sediment in the urine during pregnancy can happen due to complications such as dehydration and urinary tract infections. Urinary tract infections are common during pregnancy.
Pregnant people can also be more at risk of dehydration due to their increased fluid needs. Experts recommend that they try to drink between 8–12 cups of water a day to stay properly hydrated.
Learn how to choose a doctor for your pregnancy.
People with diabetes may experience urinary tract infections and kidney disease, which can cause sediment in the urine.
People with diabetes can be more likely to get urinary conditions and kidney damage because of the high levels of glucose in the bloodstream. Too much glucose in the bloodstream is harmful to the kidneys, eyes, and other organs.
Learn more about sugar in the urine in diabetes.
Vaginal bacteria, which can cause a vaginal infection called bacterial vaginosis, can irritate the urinary tract. This can make you more likely to develop a urinary tract infection. This can result in sediment in the urine. Bacterial vaginosis happens when there is an overgrowth of the natural bacteria in the vagina, leading to an imbalance.
Bacterial vaginosis is treatable with antibiotics. However, this condition can increase your risk of a sexually transmitted infection (STI), so it’s important to wear condoms or another barrier method during sexual intercourse.
Learn what to do for bacterial vaginosis.
Hematuria is when there is blood in the urine. This can lead to sediment in the urine that red blood cells create. Hematuria can be visually present under a microscope.
Treatment for hematuria depends on the cause. Doctors will diagnose hematuria based on the results of a urinalysis, urine microscopy, and imaging tests of the kidneys and surrounding structures.
Bladder stones form when you can’t completely empty your bladder. When urine sits in the bladder too long, chemicals in the urine form crystals, which harden into stones. The crystals can manifest as sediment in the urine.
Doctors treat bladder stones by performing a procedure called a cystolitholapaxy. In this procedure, they use a cystoscope, which is a thin tube with a camera at the end, to find the bladder stones. The cystoscope uses a device, such as a laser or ultrasound, to break up the stones before removal.
Certain STIs, such as trichomoniasis, can cause irritation to the urethra, resulting in urine sediment. Trichomoniasis occurs due to a parasite that spreads to the lower genital tract. It is most commonly transmittable through sexual activity.
Healthcare professionals usually treat trichomoniasis with an oral antibiotic.
Learn about the complications of trichomoniasis.
Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate that leads to uncomfortable urinary symptoms and sediment in the urine.
For prostatitis due to bacteria, treatment consists of oral antibiotics. Sometimes, people need to get intravenous antibiotics and stay in the hospital for a short time.
Sediment in the urine may look different, depending on the cause. In cases of a bacterial infection, there may be white particles in the urine, usually consisting of white blood cells. It’s also possible to have blood in the urine. In the case of kidney or bladder stones, sediment may look like small grains of sand.
Contact a doctor if you develop sediment in the urine that you have not had before. If you have symptoms of infection, such as fever, chills, or flank pain, or have blood in the urine, call your doctor right away.
There are many different causes of sediment in the urine. The way sediment in the urine looks often depends on what causes it.
If you develop sediment in the urine or have symptoms of an infection, notify a doctor. The doctor will discuss a treatment plan with you based on your symptoms and what causes the sediment to form in the urine.