Foamy urine is often the result of a fast urine stream. However, a range of medical conditions can also have this effect.
If a person notices foamy urine frequently, or if it accompanies other symptoms, they should speak to a doctor.
In this article, we look at the causes of foamy urine and the treatment options for each condition.
If a person has released a lot of urine at once, or if they have urinated especially quickly or forcefully, the urine may appear foamy. The speed can cause temporary bubbling.
Soap in the toilet water may also cause urine to appear bubbly.
Several medical conditions can also result in bubbly or foamy urine. They include:
If the urine is very dark and highly concentrated, it may appear foamy. This is because a person is not drinking enough clear fluids, such as water, to dilute the other substances in the urine.
One vital function of the kidneys is to filter proteins in the blood. These proteins perform essential functions in the body, such as maintaining a balance of fluids.
If a person has kidney damage or disease, proteins can leak from the kidneys into the urine.
The result is known as proteinuria, which means "protein in the urine."
Extra proteins reduce the urine's surface tension, causing it to foam. This is similar to the effect that soap has on water.
Proteinuria can be an early sign of kidney disease. Other symptoms may include:
- itchy skin
- shortness of breath
- unexplained fatigue
- frequent urination
Diabetes and other causes of high blood sugar also commonly result in foamy urine.
A person with uncontrolled diabetes will have more blood glucose molecules in their body. Glucose is a large molecule, like protein.
If blood glucose levels are too high, the kidneys may have trouble filtering the molecules correctly. As a result, the kidneys may allow excess glucose and proteins to escape in the urine.
In addition to foamy urine, people with uncontrolled diabetes can have symptoms such as:
- blurred vision
- dry mouth
- a constant feeling of thirst
- a frequent need to go to the bathroom
- unexplained hunger
- itchy skin
- unexplained fatigue
A doctor can diagnose the cause of foamy urine by testing a urine sample to determine whether levels of proteins are high.
If the urine has high levels of proteins, the doctor may want to confirm that this effect is consistent, and they will recommend a 24-hour urine test. This test requires a person to collect all the urine that they produce throughout the day.
A laboratory then takes the urine and compares the amount of albumin, which is a primary protein in the blood, to the amount of creatinine, another waste product.
If a person's albumin to creatinine ratio is higher than average, they may have kidney disease. Or, they may have an injury to the kidneys that is affecting the filtration process.
A doctor may recommend other tests to assess blood glucose levels or other indications of kidney function.
They may also request imaging, such as an MRI scan, to ensure that there are no problems with the structure of the kidneys.
Treatments for foamy urine depend on the underlying cause.
If a person is dehydrated, they should drink more clear fluids, until the urine is pale yellow or nearly transparent.
If diabetes is the underlying cause, a doctor may prescribe oral medications or insulin injections to reduce blood glucose levels. A person may need to check their levels regularly to ensure that they are within an acceptable range.
A doctor may prescribe medications for people with early kidney disease. The doctor may also recommend positive lifestyle changes, such as:
- eating a healthful, low-sodium diet
- controlling high blood pressure
- managing blood sugar levels
- exercising regularly
- not smoking
People with severe kidney disease or kidneys that function poorly may require dialysis, which is a procedure that cleanses the blood of excess waste.
If a person has foamy urine, they should consider the most likely causes first. These include peeing with a very fast stream, dehydration, or the presence of soap in the toilet bowl.
However, if foamy urine accompanies other symptoms or reoccurs often, a person should see a doctor for further evaluation.