Urine colors can change with a person’s health and habits. Clear urine may mean they are drinking too much water, while dark brown urine can be a sign of liver disease. Other possible causes of change include a urinary tract infection or eating foods that contain dyes.
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.
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
Light orange urine may mean a person is slightly dehydrated, so may need to increase their fluid intake.
Medications that may turn urine orange include:
- sulfasalazine, an anti-inflammatory drug
- certain laxatives that contain senna
- some chemotherapy drugs
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 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.
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.
- 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.
Chyluria is a condition in which chyle, a milky substance made during digestion, is present in the urine.
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 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 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.