Urine can reveal a lot about someone's health. So while it might feel strange to discuss the odor of urine with a doctor, it is important that a person talks to a health provider if they notice a sudden change in the appearance or odor of their urine.
In this article, we discuss the reasons for sweet- or fruity-smelling urine, symptoms, warning signs, and when to see a doctor.
The look and odor of urine may be affected by a person's diet.
Because urine helps the body get rid of waste, a person's diet and fluid intake can affect the way their urine looks and smells.
If the odor of urine changes temporarily, this could be caused by something a person has eaten recently. For example, asparagus can give the urine an unusually strong odor.
Some disorders, medications, and supplements may also affect the way urine smells. A person who notices a change in the smell of their urine should monitor their symptoms, and if they continue, should talk to a doctor.
Causes of sweet-smelling urine
The most common reasons why urine may smell sweet include:
Taking vitamin B6 supplements can change the smell of urine.
People with sweet-smelling urine due to diabetes may notice other symptoms, including:
- extreme thirst
- appetite changes
- unexplained weight loss
This condition occurs when a person does not have enough insulin and usually, but not always, very high blood sugar levels.
Insulin helps the body break down glucose to use for fuel. When the body cannot produce enough insulin to use glucose, it begins breaking down fat. This causes acids called ketones to accumulate in the blood.
Diabetic ketoacidosis left untreated can be fatal and should be considered a medical emergency.
Along with sweet-smelling urine, a person may have the following symptoms:
- sweet-smelling breath
- feelings of exhaustion
Maple syrup urine disease
Maple syrup urine disease is a genetic disorder where a person cannot process certain proteins. It is an inherited disorder, and a parent may notice their baby or child has sweet-smelling urine.
This disorder may be fatal if left untreated. It is possible for children to develop less severe forms of the disorder. Maple syrup urine disease is treatable. Parents should seek prompt medical care when a child has sweet-smelling urine.
Babies with this condition may also have the following symptoms:
- unusual movements
- delayed development
- poor eating
A person may need to follow a strict diet, regularly undergo blood testing, or take medications to prevent liver failure if they have maple syrup urine disease. Some people with maple syrup urine disease eventually need a liver transplant.
Medications and supplements
People who have recently begun a new medication should talk to their doctor if their urine looks or smells strange.
When someone is dehydrated, it makes their urine more concentrated. The urine may appear very yellow, or even brown and more concentrated urine smells stronger.
While the most common smell is a pungent ammonia odor, some people report that their urine smells sweet or fruity.
When a person's urine is very dark, they should drink more water. If symptoms do not get better in a few hours, an individual should go and see their doctor within a few days.
Yeast is a fungus that commonly affects the vagina. Less frequently, it can also infect men.
Yeast infections do not cause the urine to smell but can cause vaginal discharge to smell sweet, similar to honey, bread, or beer.
Symptoms of a yeast infection include:
- a cottage cheese-like discharge
- painful urination in some cases
Some over-the-counter remedies or prescription antifungals can treat yeast infections. If a person has symptoms for the first time, however, they should see a doctor, because several other conditions can be mistaken for a yeast infection.
When urine smells unusual, but there are no other symptoms, it is normally safe to wait a day or two before contacting a doctor.
Some symptoms, however, warrant an immediate trip to the doctor. These include:
- Feeling very thirsty. Diabetic ketoacidosis can make people feel very thirsty, even when they drink lots of fluids.
- Abdominal pain or nausea. These are present in diabetic ketoacidosis.
- Intense pain in the back, abdomen, or genitals. These locations of pains could mean a kidney or urinary tract infection.
- Blood in the urine. This could be a sign that someone has an infection.
- Nausea, vomiting, and yellow skin or eyes. This might mean an individual is experiencing liver failure.
- Feeling tired, confused, or agitated. This could be a sign of diabetic ketoacidosis or a serious infection.
- Fever. A fever can be a sign of an infection. Some infections, such as urinary tract infections that spread to the kidneys or blood, can be life-threatening.
When to see a doctor
Medical advice should be sought when sweet-smelling urine is accompanied by a frequent urge to urinate.
For some people, a change in urine odor or appearance is the first sign of a serious health problem. It is essential to heed this warning, so symptoms should not be ignored even if no other signs appear.
The National Health Service in the United Kingdom recommend seeing a doctor if smelly urine occurs along with:
- a frequent, urgent need to urinate
- pain or burning when urinating
- blood in urine
- lower abdomen pain
- general feelings of fatigue and unwellness
- confusion or agitation
Sweet-smelling urine is often the result of a person's recent diet or diabetes but can also signal a dangerous and even life-threatening medical condition. With prompt treatment, most causes of sweet-smelling urine are easily managed and treated.
This is a common medical symptom that doctors are accustomed to diagnosing and treating. No matter the cause, the outlook is better when a person seeks treatment early.