Hydration levels, foods, and medications can all change urine color. Certain urine colors may also indicate an underlying medical condition.

Urine color can be a useful indicator of how well hydrated a person is. Certain foods and medications may also alter urine color.

Some urine color changes may be a sign of an infection or a problem with the liver or kidneys.

This article looks at what different urine colors may mean and when to contact a doctor.

An illustration portraying the different colors of urine.Share on Pinterest
An illustration by Jason Hoffman.

Clear urine may be a sign that a person is drinking too much water. Doing this can alter the balance of electrolytes in the blood.

Diuretics, or water pills, increase urine output. People taking these medications may find they urinate more frequently, and their urine may be clear.

Diabetes can also cause people to urinate more frequently, as well as feel very thirsty. This may lead them to drink more, which can cause clear urine.

Learn more about what happens if a person drinks too much water.

Pale or transparent yellow urine is typically a sign that a person is hydrated and drinking enough water.

Diabetes insipidus is a condition in which the body produces excess urine. It can cause people to pass large quantities of light-colored urine every time they urinate. It can also cause people to feel very thirsty, leading them to drink fluids frequently.

Dark yellow urine may indicate that a person is mildly dehydrated. This typically means that they need to drink more water.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that there is no recommendation regarding how much water a person should drink each day. However, if possible, a person may wish to aim for approximately 6–8 glasses of water per day.

Light orange urine may mean a person is slightly dehydrated, so may need to increase their fluid intake.

Certain vitamins, such as riboflavin, can also make urine turn a bright yellow or orange color.

Medications that may turn urine orange include:

  • sulfasalazine, an anti-inflammatory drug
  • phenazopyridine
  • certain laxatives that contain senna
  • some chemotherapy drugs

The Urology Care Foundation notes that dark orange or brown urine can occur if a person is not producing enough urine. This makes the urine they produce more concentrated and darker in color.

This may be due to dehydration, strenuous exercise, or being in a hot climate. Drinking more fluids and replacing electrolytes may help dilute the urine, which will also make it lighter in color.

Eating large amounts of fava beans can also turn urine a dark brown color.

Dark urine may be a sign of a problem with the liver. A liver problem can cause the body to excrete high levels of bilirubin, which is a pigment present in bile.

High levels of bilirubin can indicate liver inflammation or other medical conditions associated with the liver.

Dark urine may be an indication of a medical condition:

  • Liver disease: Dark brown urine may be a sign of liver disease.
  • Rhabdomyolysis: Dark brown, dark red, or tea-colored urine may be a sign of rhabdomyolysis, which is a serious condition that occurs from muscle tissue death. People with this condition need immediate medical treatment.
  • Alkaptonuria: Also called black urine disease, this is a rare, inherited condition that stops the body from breaking down two types of amino acids. A parent or caregiver may notice dark-stained diapers as a child’s urine turns black after a few hours of exposure to the air.

A person’s urine may be pink or red after eating certain foods, such as beetroot, blackberries, and rhubarb.

Blood in the urine, or hematuria, may also cause urine to become pink or red. This may occur due to a urinary tract infection (UTI), prostate infection, or kidney stones. In some cases, it may be a sign of kidney disease or cancer.

Laxatives that contain senna and phenazopyridine (a drug to treat urinary tract discomfort) can cause urine to turn reddish-orange.

It is important to contact a doctor about blood in the urine to determine the underlying cause.

The Urology Care Foundation notes that certain medications or eating foods that contain large amounts of food dye can cause blue or green urine.

Medications include:

  • amitriptyline, an antidepressant
  • indomethacin, a pain reliever
  • propofol, an anesthetic

Green urine may also indicate a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Cloudy urine may be a sign of a UTI.

Other symptoms may include foul-smelling urine, urinating more frequently, and pain or a burning sensation when urinating.

Chyluria is a condition in which chyle, a milky substance made during digestion, is present in the urine.

It mostly occurs due to a parasitic infection that affects the lymphatic system and urinary tract. However, it can have other causes.

Diabetes may increase the frequency of urination. It can also increase thirst, and when a person drinks more, this can result in an increased urine output that is paler in color.

Otherwise, there appear to be no unusual urine color changes for well-managed diabetes.

When to seek medical help

Diabetes can increase the risk of UTIs, which can cause cloudy urine. Prompt treatment of a UTI can help prevent complications.

Diabetes can increase the risk of kidney disease. If people have urine that is consistently paler or darker than usual, appears foamy or bubbly, or the amount of urine they produce changes, they should contact a doctor.

People will also need to contact a doctor if urine appears red or brown, as this may be a sign of blood in urine. These may be signs of kidney problems.

People may need to urinate more frequently when pregnant due to hormonal changes and increased pressure on the bladder. This can occur throughout pregnancy.

People may also experience urine leakage in the later stages of pregnancy due to increased pressure on the pelvic floor.

If people have morning sickness during pregnancy that causes nausea and vomiting, it may lead to dehydration. People may notice they produce less urine and that it is darker in color. Replacing lost fluids and electrolytes may help return urine to typical amounts and color.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends people drink 8–12 cups (64–96 ounces) of water every day during pregnancy.

When to seek medical help

Pregnancy increases the risk of UTIs. A person should contact a doctor if their urine becomes cloudy, as this can indicate an infection.

Vaginal bleeding or spotting is common during pregnancy, and this may turn urine pink or red. A person should still inform a healthcare professional about this so that they can check there is no underlying problem.

A person may wish to contact a doctor if they experience a change in their urine that is not due to eating colored foods or taking medication. This is particularly important if the change lasts more than 1–2 days.

Frothy or foamy urine may be a sign of a kidney problem. Excessive bubbles in urine, which can be hard to flush, can be a sign of protein in urine, which may indicate kidney disease.

People will also need to contact a doctor if they have:

  • cloudy or foul-smelling urine, as this may be a sign of a UTI or other infection
  • an urgent or frequent need to urinate, particularly with increased thirst
  • pain or a burning sensation when urinating
  • urine that remains dark even when a person is sufficiently hydrated
  • bloody urine

A doctor can carry out a urine test to identify any abnormal substances in the urine. This can help them determine the underlying cause of changes in the urine.

It is normal for urine to change color with levels of hydration. Pale or transparent yellow urine typically indicates sufficient hydration, while darker yellow or amber urine may be a sign of dehydration.

Certain food and medications can also change urine color.

A person will need to contact a doctor if they notice any persistent or unusual changes, such as dark urine, bloody urine, or cloudy urine.