Urine Color Changes
What are urine color changes?
Healthy urine is generally clear and light yellow in color. The yellow is caused by urochrome pigments in the urine – a normal waste product. Urine color changes may occur due to a variety of causes, some of which are not harmful. For example, eating certain foods, such as beets, can temporarily change the color of urine to red or pink. Reduced fluid intake leads to concentrated urine, yielding a deeper shade of yellow. Urine may also appear almost colorless if you drink a large amount of water.
Certain medications and vitamins can also discolor the urine. For example, Pyridium, a commonly prescribed medication for the pain of a urinary tract infection, colors the urine bright orange. Intravenous fluorescein, a diagnostic solution frequently used in ophthalmology, will give urine a bright green color.
Urine color changes can also be a symptom of an underlying disease, disorder or condition, such as dehydration, urinary tract infection, and kidney trauma or injury. Urine color and clarity can also change due to diseases and conditions, such as diabetes and preeclampsia, which cause the urine to become cloudy due to the release of protein in the urine.
Urine color changes can occur in all age groups and populations, and they may or may not occur with additional symptoms, such as a foul urine odor, burning or pain with urination, and frequent urination.
In some cases, urine color changes can be due to serious or life-threatening underlying diseases, such as kidney stones, severe dehydration, and urosepsis. Seek prompt medical care if you have an unexplained or persistent change in the color of your urine. Timely diagnosis and treatment of the underlying cause reduces the risk of serious or life-threatening complications, such as kidney infection (pyelonephritis).
Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have urine color changes with severe abdominal or flank pain, or a change in consciousness or alertness.
What other symptoms might occur with urine color changes?
Urine color changes may be accompanied by other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms can be due to problems in the urinary tract (kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra), the reproductive system, the endocrine system, the digestive system, cardiovascular system, and other organs and systems of the body.
Urinary tract symptoms that may occur with urine color changes
Symptoms related to the urinary tract that can occur with urine color changes include:
Abdominal or flank pain along your abdomen, side or back
Bladder spasms, pain, or cramps, which are felt in the lower abdominal area
Dribbling urine or incontinence
Frequent urination or a decrease in urination
Painful urination or burning with urination
Other symptoms that may occur with urine color changes
Symptoms related to other organs or body systems that can occur with urine color changes include:
High blood pressure (hypertension)
Jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
Joint pain and stiffness
Swelling (edema) of the legs and possibly the abdomen, arms and face
Swelling of lymph nodes
Vaginal or penile discharge
Weight loss or weight gain
Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition:
In some cases, urine color changes can occur with symptoms that might indicate a serious or 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 has any of these life-threatening symptoms:
Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness
Inability to urinate or severe decrease in urination
Severe abdominal pain or flank pain along your abdomen, side, or lower back
What causes urine color changes?
Urine color changes can be caused by conditions that are not harmful, such as eating certain foods. Urine color changes can also be a side effect of certain medications.
Urine color changes can be a symptom of an infection, inflammation or condition of the urinary tract (kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra) or the reproductive organs. Blood in the urine (hematuria) is a common symptom of a problem in the urinary tract. Hematuria can make the urine appear red, pink or cloudy. A small amount of blood in the urine that is not visible to the naked eye can also cause urine to change color.
Urine color changes can also be caused by diseases of other body systems and diseases that cause the excretion of protein in the urine, which can cloud urine when present in high levels. These include diabetes, heart disease, starvation or excessive dieting, and preeclampsia.
Foods and medications that can cause urine color changes
Eating certain foods or taking certain medications can cause urine color changes. If you experience urine color changes that are not caused by food or medications, you should contact your medical provider.
Foods that can cause urine color changes include:
Certain food colorings
Many medications can cause urine color changes. If you have urine color changes and are taking any medications, notify your health care provider and provide a complete list of all herbal and dietary supplements and over-the-counter and prescription medications you take.
Some of the more common medications that can cause urine color changes include:
Blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin)
Vitamin C and vitamin B supplements
Urinary tract and reproductive system causes of urine color changes
Causes of urine color changes related to the urinary tract and reproductive system include:
Bladder or kidney cancer
Cystitis (bladder inflammation or infection)
Injury or trauma to the urinary tract (kidneys, ureters, bladder or urethra)
Kidney failure (renal failure)
Nephritis or glomerulonephritis (types of kidney inflammation)
Prostatitis (inflammation or infection of the prostate gland)
Urinary tract infections, such as a bladder infection or kidney infection (pyelonephritis)
Urinary tract procedures, such as catheterization or kidney biopsy
Other causes of urine color changes
Urine color changes can be caused by diseases and conditions of body systems outside the urinary tract including:
Cardiovascular diseases including hypertension, pericarditis, and heart failure
Certain inborn errors of metabolism (lysosomal storage diseases)
Certain types of chemical poisoning, such as from antifreeze ingestion
Diabetes (chronic disease that affects your body’s ability to use sugar for energy)
Liver diseases, such as viral hepatitis and cirrhosis
Moderate to severe dehydration or heat exposure
Starvation or excessive dieting
Complications associated with urine color changes vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Complications of untreated or poorly controlled diseases, such as diabetes, kidney infection, or cirrhosis of the liver, can be serious and even life threatening. Over time, underlying causes of urine color changes can lead to serious complications including:
Kidney damage and chronic kidney disease
Permanent liver damage and liver failure
Septicemia (blood infection)
Spread of cancer (metastasis)