There are various causes of cloudy urine, including urinary tract infections, dehydration, sexually transmitted infections, kidney or prostate problems, and more. Treatments can depend on the cause.

Each underlying cause of cloudy urine may have additional symptoms, which can help a doctor make a diagnosis.

Read on to learn more about the possible causes of cloudy urine and how to treat them.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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1. Urinary tract infection (UTI)

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Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most common causes of cloudy urine, leading to more than 8.1 million visits to the doctor every year.

The cloudy look of the urine typically comes from a discharge of either pus or blood into the urinary tract. It could also be a buildup of white blood cells that indicates the body is trying to eliminate invading bacteria.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, people assigned female at birth are more likely than people assigned male at birth to get UTIs.

Aside from cloudy urine, symptoms of a UTI may include:

Without treatment, UTIs can lead to a kidney infection, a more severe form of UTI. Kidney infection can lead to permanent kidney damage.

Symptoms of a kidney infection may or may not include those of a UTI, and may also include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • back or side pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • abdominal cramps

People should contact their doctor as early as possible if they are experiencing these symptoms for proper diagnosis and treatment. Early treatment of a UTI can help relieve discomfort and prevent complications.


Most UTIs respond well to a round of antibiotics. However, a person may not require treatment if they do not experience any symptoms.

In more severe cases, the person may need to receive these drugs intravenously.

2. Dehydration

When more water leaves the body than the amount that enters it, dehydration can result. This can cause cloudy urine.

Dehydration is common in older adults. However, it can affect anybody. Causes of dehydration can include:

  • poor fluid intake
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • sweating
  • fever
  • burns
  • diabetes

In addition to cloudy urine, the symptoms of dehydration include:

Severe dehydration can lead to more serious symptoms and complications, such as disorientation, loss of consciousness, and death. People should seek emergency medical care for severe dehydration.


People can usually correct early dehydration by increasing water consumption. A person can drink more fluids and eat more foods that are rich in liquids.

Severe dehydration may require IV fluids or hospitalization.

If an underlying condition is causing dehydration, addressing the condition directly may help reduce dehydration.

Learn about chronic dehydration.

3. Sexually transmitted infection (STI)

An STI is an infection that transmits through sexual contact. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, around 20 million people in the U.S. get an STI every year.

Some common STIs, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, may cause cloudy urine. The infections prompt the immune system to produce white blood cells that can give urine a cloudy appearance.

Other symptoms of STIs can include:

  • genital itching
  • genital pain
  • pain during sexual intercourse
  • pain during ejaculation
  • pain during urination
  • sores on genitals
  • foul-smelling discharge from genitals

The best way to prevent the spread of STIs is to use protection during sexual activity. Regular testing for STIs can help people receive an early diagnosis and treatment.

A person can talk with their doctor if they have any questions or concerns.


Treatment will depend on the type of STI. Infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea generally respond well to antibiotics.

A person’s doctor can advise on what treatments they recommend for the specific infection.

4. Vaginitis

Vaginitis is inflammation of the vagina and possibly the surrounding vulva. It can lead to cloudy urine.

The most common cause of vaginitis is a bacterial infection, but viruses or fungi can also cause it.

In some cases, the body may react to the ingredients in soaps, detergents, fabric softeners, or other products. These reactions can cause inflammation in the vagina and vulva without an infection.

Additional symptoms of vaginitis include:

  • itching of the vagina or vulva
  • foul-smelling, discolored vaginal discharge that resembles cottage cheese
  • pain during urination
  • pain during sexual intercourse

People should contact their doctor if they have concerns about vaginitis. They will determine whether the infection is bacterial, fungal, or viral, and recommend suitable treatments.


Doctors may recommend medications that attack bacteria, viruses, or fungi to treat vaginitis and clear up symptoms.

5. Prostatitis

Prostatitis is an inflamed prostate that may cause cloudy urine. Infection or swelling of the prostate can cause prostatitis.

Other symptoms of prostatitis include:

  • pain during ejaculation
  • pain during urination
  • frequent urination
  • bloody, or dark-tinged urine
  • abdominal pain
  • genital pain
  • pelvic pain


If bacteria are causing the infection, antibiotics may help treat prostatitis. For chronic cases, doctors may recommend medications to manage symptoms.

Learn about chronic prostatitis.

6. Kidney stones

Kidney stones can cause cloudy urine. They develop from the buildup of certain minerals in the body.

Small stones may pass without causing pain, but larger stones can block the urinary tract and cause a UTI.

Other symptoms may include include:

  • pain in the back, abdomen, or groin
  • pain during urination
  • fever
  • chills
  • bloody or dark-tinged urine
  • foul-smelling urine

People should see their doctor for proper diagnosis and management.


Some kidney stones do not require treatment and will pass on to the urinary tract independently. 

A doctor may prescribe pain medication if passing stones is painful. They may also recommend medications or shock wave therapy to break large stones into passable pieces. Very large stones may require surgery.

Learn about preventing kidney stones.

7. Diabetes

Diabetes may be the underlying cause of cloudy urine. This can indicate that excess sugar has built up in the urine.

Diabetes can also cause kidney damage, which can result in cloudy urine.

Other signs of diabetes may include:

If people have diabetes or are experiencing any of these symptoms, they should talk with their doctor.


A person may require insulin or other medications for diabetes.

Kidney problems arising from diabetes may require frequent urine tests to check for damage in the kidney. Depending on the type or severity of kidney damage, a doctor may recommend dietary changes alongside taking steps to manage diabetes.

Learn about medications for diabetes.

8. Diet

In some cases, a person’s diet can cause their urine to be cloudy.

For example, if a person consumes large amounts of phosphorus. In that case, a cloudy appearance will occur when their kidneys attempt to filter the excess mineral from the bloodstream.

Foods that contain phosphorus include:

  • dairy
  • meats
  • seafood
  • nuts and seeds
  • beans


Dietary changes to reduce the amount of phosphorus a person consumes can help prevent cloudy urine. A registered dietitian can help a person assess how much phosphorus they consume and create a suitable eating plan.

How do doctors diagnose the cause of cloudy urine?

To assist with reaching an accurate diagnosis, a doctor may begin by asking the person questions about their symptoms and how long they have had them. They may also perform a physical exam.

They may then order numerous tests. The tests can depend on other symptoms the person experiences or what condition the doctor suspects. They may order:

  • urine tests
  • blood tests
  • imaging tests of the bladder or kidneys
  • cystoscopy, a surgical procedure that can help with examining the bladder and urethra

Frequently asked questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about cloudy urine.

Do different things cause cloudy urine in men vs. women?

Females can also have cloudy urine from vaginitis, while males will have cloudy urine from prostatitis. Females are more likely than males to have a UTI. They are also more likely to have an STI.

Is cloudy urine serious?

The cause of cloudy urine is not always serious. It may be due to dehydration, which a person can often resolve by drinking more fluids. However, cloudy urine can indicate more serious disorders such as kidney disease or diabetes.

If a person has concerns or is symptomatic, it is important to contact a doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

Can urine be cloudy without an infection?

Urine can become cloudy from conditions other than infections. Diabetes, kidney stones, and dehydration can all cause cloudy urine.

What deficiency causes cloudy urine?

Vitamin D deficiency may increase a person’s risk of UTI, which can cause cloudy urine. A 2021 study found that low vitamin D levels contributed to UTIs in children. A 2020 study noted that women of productive age were more likely to develop a UTI if they had low vitamin D levels.

What drugs cause cloudy urine?

Some medications may cause cloudy urine as a side effect. For example, solifenacin, which can treat an overactive bladder, may cause cloudy urine. If this happens, a person should contact a doctor immediately, as it can be a serious side effect.

In some cases, medications may increase the risk of conditions that can cause cloudy urine. Oxybutynin, an antispasmodic, can lead to a UTI, which in turn can cause cloudy urine.


Infections may cause cloudy urine. Examples include urinary tract infections (UTIs), sexually transmitted infections (STIs), vaginitis, and prostatitis.

Other causes of cloudy urine include dehydration, diabetes, kidney stones, and consuming a lot of phosphorus.

A person should take note of any other symptoms and share them with their doctor. It may help them determine the diagnosis and appropriate treatment.