What are changes in urine?
Normal urine is yellowish in color, ranging from clear to deep amber. The color depends on how diluted it is, meaning how much liquid you consume. All urine has a slight odor that can vary with your diet.
Changes in urine can refer to:
- Color changes.
- Changes in odor.
- Changes in consistency (for example, urine may appear foamy).
Sometimes these changes are temporary and harmless. They may be the result of eating certain foods or vitamins, or taking some medicines. Asparagus or beets can harmlessly change the odor and color of urine, for example.
Other times, changes in urine may be the result of a more serious underlying medical condition.
Who experiences changes in urine?
Anyone can experience changes in urine. It is more frequently seen in adult women, since a change in urine is a common symptom of urinary tract infections. Women more frequently experience these infections. Older adults and adults with a family history of kidney or bladder stones are also more prone to experience changes in urine.
Symptoms and Causes
What causes changes in urine?
The most harmless changes in urine color come from things you eat:
- Foods such as beets, fava beans, blackberries, and rhubarb can turn urine reddish, or sometimes dark brown.
- Carrots can turn urine light orange. Vitamin C can also turn urine orange.
- B vitamins can give urine a greenish tinge.
- Foods that use strong color dyes can also temporarily change urine color.
Certain medications may also change the color of your urine. Check the label or consult your physician to see if this is a possible side effect. For example:
- Stomach acid reducer Tagamet® can turn urine a blue shade.
- Some chemotherapy medicines can turn urine orange.
- Phenazopyridine (Pyridium®), a drug used to treat urinary tract and bladder pain, can also give urine an orange hue.
More seriously, changes in urine color can be symptomatic of an underlying medical condition:
- Red tinged urine can indicate blood in your urine, which could be caused by a urinary tract infection, kidney stones, or in rare cases, cancer.
- Reddish urine could also be a sign of lead or mercury poisoning.
- Dark brown urine could indicate liver failure.
- Cola- or tea-colored urine could indicate inflammation of the kidneys (glomerulonephritis).
- Orange hued urine can also indicate a problem with the liver or bile duct.
- Greenish or cloudy urine may be symptomatic of a urinary tract infection.
Changes in urine odor can also be caused by diet, vitamins or medication. Asparagus is known to give urine more of an ammonia smell. B-6 supplements can also give urine a strong odor. You may also experience changes in urine odor if you are not drinking enough water. Highly concentrated urine can have a strong ammonia smell.
Underlying conditions that change urine odor can be very serious. They include:
- Bladder infections.
- Kidney infections.
- Liver failure.
- Metabolic disorders.
Infections will commonly have other symptoms besides a strong odor to the urine. These symptoms can include:
- Urinating very frequently.
- Having pain with urination.
- Feeling pain in the middle of your back.
Changes in the consistency of urine may give it the appearance of "foaming." This is usually the harmless result of the speed of urination and can appear after eating certain foods. But if this issue persists—especially if you experience leg swelling—you should talk to your doctor. It could be the result of excess protein in your urine, which could signify kidney disease.
Changes in the color, odor or consistency of urine are usually caused by relatively harmless dietary and medicine changes, especially if they occur without any other symptoms. But they can be caused by much more serious underlying conditions. For this reason, it is important to seek medical attention promptly if you notice any changes lasting for a period of time, or which do not seem tied to your diet. If your urine is red (not associated with menstruation) or black (tea-colored) you should contact your healthcare provider without waiting.
What are the symptoms of changes in urine?
The symptoms of changes in urine are very easy to see or smell. They typically include:
- Changes in the color of your urine.
- Foaming of the urine.
- Strong odor changes.
Diagnosis and Tests
How are the causes of changes in urine diagnosed?
If you have changes in the color, odor, or consistency of your urine that last more than a few days and do not seem tied to any diet or medicine changes, you should contact your healthcare provider.
Your doctor will most likely begin your appointment by asking you to describe the changes. This includes asking about how long you have had these changes and whether you have seen any blood in your urine. The doctor will also ask about any dietary or medicine changes and how much water or liquids you are drinking. He or she will also ask if you are feeling pain when urinating or have pain in your abdomen or bladder area. You may also be asked about any appetite or thirst changes. These questions will help determine if an underlying condition could be causing the changes in your urine. If the doctor remains concerned that something abnormal is going on, a urine sample may be taken. This sample will be tested. The test looks for blood, protein, inflammation (urinalysis), and possibly bacteria that could be causing an infection (urine culture) if a UTI is suspected.
A blood test may also be taken to check for possible kidney damage, diabetes, or a buildup of liver enzymes.
Management and Treatment
How are changes in urine treated?
Changes in urine are not specifically treated. Your doctor will treat the underlying cause once it is determined.
Outlook / Prognosis
What is the prognosis for changes in urine?
Changes in urine are usually the result of harmless diet or medicine changes and should not be a cause for concern. Changes caused by underlying conditions such as urinary tract infections or kidney stones should resolve as the underlying cause is treated. In this case, the changes can be seen as a symptom that helped to diagnose a larger problem and may even be beneficial for bringing the cause to your doctor’s attention.