Pregnancy and urinary tract infections are common causes of urinary changes, but many other conditions can cause similar symptoms.
In this article, we look at what causes white particles in urine and when to see a doctor.
Possible causes of white particles in urine include:
There may be many causes of white particles in the urine.
During pregnancy, there are a variety of hormonal changes that can cause vaginal discharge and other symptoms.
A discharge can mix with the urine as it leaves the body and appears as white particles in the urine. This is normal and is not a cause for concern.
Anyone who is pregnant and has vaginal discharge that appears darker or discharges accompanied by other symptoms, such as itching or burning, should see a doctor, as they may have an infection.
2. Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
UTIs are a common cause of white particles in the urine.
UTIs occur when bacteria get into the urethra and make their way to the bladder, kidneys, or ureter, where they multiply and cause the infection.
Less commonly, viruses, parasites, or fungi entering the urinary tract may cause a UTI.
A UTI can cause discharge in both men and women and can cause white particles to appear in the urine.
Other symptoms of urinary tract infections include:
- pain in the abdomen or pelvis
- an urgent urge to urinate
- pain while urinating
- trouble urinating
- cloudy or discolored urine
- foul-smelling urine
- fever or chills
Bacterial UTIs usually require antibiotics. If the UTI is left untreated, it may spread to other parts of the body and can cause serious complications.
Anyone who thinks they have a UTI should visit a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Some women produce extra cervical mucus during ovulation. This mucus may have a milky or creamy texture and may resemble a stringy white substance in the urine.
While it is normal for some of this mucus to be released into the urine, a woman should visit the doctor if the discharge has a foul odor or is colored.
4. Retrograde ejaculation
Retrograde ejaculation occurs when the muscle or sphincter that keeps semen from entering the bladder does not contract properly. This can cause the man to have an orgasm without ejaculating, as the semen goes into the bladder instead.
When the man empties his bladder later, he may notice stringy, white bits of semen floating in the urine.
Retrograde ejaculation does not pose any direct health concerns, but infertility treatments may be necessary if a couple is trying to conceive.
5. Bacterial vaginosis
This can cause a variety of symptoms, including a foul or fishy odor and a burning sensation while urinating.
Some women also notice a thin, grayish-white discharge that may mix in with the urine and cause white particles to appear.
Treatment for bacterial vaginosis varies but can include oral antibiotics or suppositories.
Some doctors also recommend taking probiotics after treatment to reintroduce beneficial bacteria to the vagina.
6. Yeast infections
A yeast infection may also cause white particles in the urine. The fungus Candida albicans is found naturally in healthy women but, in certain situations, it can grow rapidly in the vagina and cause an infection.
Yeast infections often cause a thick, chunky discharge that may resemble cottage cheese in appearance. This discharge can mix with the urine and lead to white bits appearing.
In addition to this, a yeast infection may cause other symptoms, such as:
- redness and swelling around the vagina
- itching or soreness
- soreness or pain while urinating
- pain during sex
Doctors often recommend prescription or over-the-counter antifungal treatments to treat yeast infections.
Prostatitis refers to inflammation of the prostate gland and can be caused by a bacterial infection near the gland.
It can cause discharge from the urethra that mixes with urine. Men with prostatitis may have other symptoms, including:
- difficulty or pain urinating
- chills or fever
- pain in the lower back
- throbbing or pain in the testicles, perineum, or rectum
- painful ejaculation
- erectile dysfunction
Most cases of bacterial prostatitis require antibiotics.
8. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
An STI may cause changes in the urine. If a person has an STI then they should refrain from sexual contact.
STIs are transmitted through oral, anal, or vaginal sexual contact, and many of them can cause changes in the urine.
Trichomoniasis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea are all STIs that may cause genital discharge in both men and women. This discharge may appear as white particles in the urine or make the urine itself appear white or cloudy.
Anyone who thinks they may have an STI should contact a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.
They should also refrain from sexual contact to avoid spreading the STI.
9. Kidney stones
Kidney stones develop when the levels of certain substances such as uric acid or calcium oxalate in the body get too high. The excess can build up in the urinary tract and may turn into kidney stones.
If the kidney stones are small enough, the body may expel them through the urine without a person noticing. They may appear as small white particles.
Kidney stones may also cause significant pain in the abdomen and other symptoms, including:
- feeling the need to urinate constantly
- difficulty urinating
- burning and pain during urination
- pain radiating through the lower abdomen, pelvis, and groin
- foul-smelling, cloudy, or bloody urine
Many kidney stones can be passed with the help of over-the-counter pain medications.
Doctors may also prescribe drugs called alpha-blockers that help break the stones into smaller pieces.
In rare cases, medical procedures are needed to break up and remove the kidney stones.
The appearance of white particles in urine may change, depending on the underlying cause of the issue.
Symptoms may appear in different ways, including:
- white flakes in the urine
- stringy, cloudy substance in the urine
- grayish sediment floating in the urine
- murky or milky urine
An underlying medical condition will often cause a few other symptoms to appear. These are important to note, as they will help a doctor diagnose and treat the problem.
When to see a doctor
If a person is uncertain about the white particles in their urine then seeing a doctor is recommended.
Some causes of white particles in the urine, such as pregnancy and ovulation, are considered normal and require no treatment.
If a person notices any additional symptoms, such as itching or pain, they may need to see a doctor.
Additional symptoms may be a sign of an underlying infection that requires prompt treatment. Anyone who has frequent white particles in the urine or is uncertain about the cause should also see a doctor.
A proper diagnosis and treatment is the best way to prevent any possible complications.
Genital discharge is often the cause of white particles in the urine. Finding the underlying cause of this discharge is essential for getting the right treatment. Many cases are easily treatable with a doctor's help.
Some causes, such as STIs or kidney stones, may require more attention. However, the outlook is good in most cases.