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Home / Incontinence / What your urine says about your health

What your urine says about your health

Find out what your symptoms could mean

The colour and quality of your pee could say a lot about your health, perhaps more than you realise. Therefore, it’s a good idea to check your pee often because it could be vital in getting a quick diagnosis.

Toilet paper roll with a sad face on a toilet.

We’re listing some changes in your urine quality and toilet habits and what could be the cause.

What the colour of your urine means

Dehydration

Urine colour is the best identifier of how hydrated you are. Urine changes colour based on its concentration. When you’re hydrated, your pee will be light yellow and clear. However, when you haven’t drunk enough water, your kidneys try to conserve as much fluid as possible. This turns your pee a dark yellow or dark brown colour.

Urine colour chart.

Dehydration can be caused by drinking alcohol, sweating a lot, vomiting or having diarrhoea. If you’re dehydrated for too long, it could be serious. So if you notice your pee is a little dark, ensure you increase your fluid intake.

It’s a urinary tract infection

A change in your urine colour can also be a symptom of a urinary tract infection (UTI) such as cystitis. It can make your urine turn dark or cloudy.

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UTIs usually go away on their own or with quick antibiotic treatment. But, spotting any changes could prevent it from becoming a kidney infection.

It’s something in your diet

Sometimes the food you eat can change the colour of your pee.

  • Beets, broad beans, rhubarb and berries can turn your urine pink or red.
  • Carrots and other vitamin C foods can turn the urine pale orange.
  • Foods high in vitamin B may give urine a green tinge.
  • Food dyes can also change the colour of your urine.

Usually, this effect is only temporary. Your urine should return to its usual colour within a few days. If it doesn’t, it’s more likely to be something else.

It’s a side effect of a medicine

A side effect of some medicines is discoloured urine. It can happen when you take one of the following medicines:

  • senna - a herbal laxative that can turn the urine red or dark yellow
  • antimalarials like chloroquine can darken the urine
  • nitrofurantoin - an antibiotic used to treat UTIs that can turn the urine blue or green tinge
  • cimetidine - used to treat heartburn, can cause a green-blue colour in the urine

You have a liver problem

In some cases, orange-coloured urine may indicate a problem with your liver or bile duct. It happens when the liver cannot break down certain chemicals, and they end up in the urine. Liver disease is likely not the cause, especially if you have no other symptoms. However, you should always get it checked out if orange urine persists.

You have a kidney problem

Foamy urine every once in a while is normal. It is typically caused by the speed of urination when your bladder is full. Frequently foamy pee, on the other hand, may indicate high protein levels.

It usually happens when your kidney cannot filter protein properly. Instead of keeping protein in your body, it releases it into your urine. It may be a sign that your kidneys aren’t functioning.

You have blood in your urine

A red or pink colour could mean there is blood in your urine. If that is the case, do not ignore these symptoms. It might not be serious, but talking to your doctor as soon as possible can catch something early.

Why does my pee smell?

Urine usually has a mild smell, but some people can experience a change in odour. Some foods and medications can change the smell of your pee.

What foods and drinks can change urine smell?
Asparagus
Asparagus
Garlic
Garlic
Onions
Onions
Fizzy drinks
Fizzy drinks
Coffee
Coffee
Alcohol
Alcohol

Some supplements and medicines can also affect the smell, such as:

  • certain antibiotics
  • high doses of vitamin B
  • chemotherapy

If the cause is your diet or medication, the odour will go away naturally on its own. However, if the smell persists or you have other symptoms, it might be an underlying health condition.

You have an infection

As well as changing urine colour, infections can cause an atypical smell.

The urine picks up the bacteria that are living in the urinary system and it can cause an odour. However, the odour isn’t the main symptom of many infections. You likely have an infection if you have any itching, pain or vaginal discharge.

You have diabetes

A common symptom of diabetes is a change in urine smell. The odour is caused by high blood sugar levels in the urine (hyperglcaemia). Many describe it as a sweet smell.

 Close up of a nurse checking someone’s blood sugar levels with diabetes.

However, if you are not at risk of diabetes or have no other symptoms, it’s unlikely to be the cause of urine changes. Other signs of diabetes include:

  • having to pee more frequently
  • feeling very hungry or thirsty
  • extreme fatigue
  • changes in your vision
  • wounds taking longer to heal
  • genital itching or thrush

If you think you have diabetes, speak to your doctor as soon as possible.

You have liver or kidney problems

A rare cause of urine odour is problems with your liver or kidneys such as:

  • kidney stones - minerals in your urine sticking together and forming hard deposits
  • kidney infection
  • liver disease
  • kidney or liver failure

If you have other symptoms like sharp pain, vomiting or blood in your urine, seek immediate medical attention.

What does blood in the urine mean?

If your urine is pink, red or brown, there could be blood in your urine. The blood could come from anywhere in your urinary tract.

The most common cause of blood in your urine is an infection like a UTI. In more uncommon cases, it could be:

  • kidney or bladder stones
  • kidney inflammation
  • an enlarged prostate
  • a blood disorder

Blood in your urine can also be cancer. According to The British Association of Urological Surgeons, 1 in 5 cases of visible blood in the urine is caused by bladder cancer.

1 in 5 cases of blood in your pee is caused by bladder cancer

Seeing blood in the toilet bowl may not be caused by your urinary tract. It could also be caused by:

  • your period
  • eating beetroot
  • a certain medicine
  • bleeding from your rectum

Even if it happens just a few times, it’s still worth popping to the GP so they can rule out anything serious.

Why does it hurt when I pee?

A stinging or burning sensation when you pee is most commonly a sign of an infection or kidney problem. However, several factors could be causing painful urination:

 Women hunching over in pain.

  • Painful bladder syndrome - is a condition that causes the bladder walls to become irritated and sensitive, which causes pain when you need to urinate.
  • Prostate problems - the prostate is a gland near the bladder. When it gets swollen or inflamed, it can cause pain in the bladder.
  • Menopause - as oestrogen levels drop post-menopause, vaginal elasticity and moisture are reduced. It can cause vaginal dryness and irritation, especially when you pee.
  • Overly scented products and douching - some hygiene products can cause unnecessary irritation.

In rarer cases, it could also be a symptom of bladder cancer.

Why do I have to urinate more frequently?

Going to the bathroom more than 10 times a day could be a sign that there is something wrong.

A lot of the conditions we have already discussed cause you to pee more often, such as:

  • UTIs
  • painful bladder syndrome
  • diabetes
  • menopause
  • prostate problems
  • during and after pregnancy
Close up of male hand using a stopwatch

There are a few other reasons you need to urinate more frequently.

One of the most common of which is incontinence. The most common cause of urinary incontinence is your bladder muscles weakening as you age. The main symptom is a lack of bladder control, which results in leaks and strong urges to pee. Thankfully, incontinence is simple to treat with prescription medicine.

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