Crystals in Urine
What does it mean to have crystals in your urine?
Crystals in urine occur when there are too many minerals in your urine and not enough liquid. The tiny pieces collect and form masses. These crystals may be found during urine tests (urinalysis). Having crystals in your urine is called crystalluria.
Some crystals don’t cause problems. Others can get big and form stones that get stuck in parts of your urinary tract and cause blockages. Blockages can cause serious problems, like acute kidney injury (AKI), which is also called acute renal failure (ARF).
What are common types of crystals found in urine?
Types of crystals that a lab tech might see in your urine include:
- Ammonium biurate.
- Calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate.
- Hippuric acid.
- Struvite (magnesium ammonium phosphate).
- Uric acid.
The laboratory test can identify the type of crystals by the shape of the crystals under a microscope. Some of the crystals may have no identifiable shape (amorphous).
The pH (acidity) of your urine can contribute to the type of crystals that happen.
Who gets crystals in their urine?
Anyone can have crystals in their urine. The presence of crystals doesn’t always mean that you have some type of medical condition, though, except in the case of cystine and xanthine. These crystals indicate rare inherited disorders.
People who are prone to developing kidney stones also may have crystals evident in their urine.
How does having crystals in my urine affect my body?
You might have crystals in your urine that really don’t mean anything. Others can cause problems, like kidney stones. When crystals collect into bigger masses, they can block urine from leaving your body. Some crystals can pass through your urinary tract and out of your body on their own, while others may need to be removed from your body by a healthcare provider.
Symptoms and Causes
What are the signs and symptoms of crystals in urine?
You may not have any signs or symptoms of crystals in urine. If you do, they might include:
- Cloudy or foamy urine.
- Feeling like you have to pee more often than usual.
- Bloody urine (hematuria).
- Bad-smelling urine.
What causes crystals in urine?
There are many things that can cause crystals to form in urine. They include:
- Dehydration (not drinking enough water).
- Eating large amounts of certain foods, including protein, salt, fruits and vegetables.
- Medications such as amoxicillin, acyclovir, sulfonamides, atazanavir and methotrexoate.
- Urinary tract infections.
- Ethylene glycol poisoning.
- Having tumor lysis syndrome, which is caused by the death of a large number of cancer cells. This may happen as a result of cancer treatment.
Is having crystals in your urine contagious?
No, crystalluria isn’t contagious. Even if you have a urinary tract infection, you’re not contagious.
Diagnosis and Tests
What tests will be done to diagnose crystals in your urine?
Your healthcare provider may order urine tests as part of your annual exam or as a result of symptoms you report. The urine samples will be examined in the lab. You may need other tests if your healthcare provider needs to order them to diagnose your condition correctly.
Management and Treatment
How do you treat crystals in your urine?
Treatment depends on the cause of the crystals. In many cases, you may just need to drink more water or cut back on your consumption of certain foods or things found in foods, like salt and sugar.
If the crystals are a result of taking certain medication, your healthcare provider might be able to switch your medication or dosage. If the crystals point to some type of disease, then your healthcare provider will treat that condition.
How can you reduce your risk of having crystals in your urine?
You can lower your risk of developing crystals in your urine and stones in your urinary tract if you:
- Drink an adequate amount of fluids, like water.
- Try to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat only a moderate amount of protein.
- Work with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian to figure out how much calcium, oxalate and vitamin C you should have to be healthy.
- Eat fewer processed foods to cut down on salt and sugar intake.
Outlook / Prognosis
What can I expect if I have this condition?
The outlook if you have crystals in your urine is probably very good. This does depend on any other conditions being treated.
When should I see my healthcare provider?
You should contact your healthcare provider if you have pain or fever along with changes in your urine. Kidney stones and other stones, like ureteral stones, can be very painful. They can also cause toxins to stay in your system and cause problems.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Crystalluria, or having crystals in your urine, is relatively common. Crystals can be found in the urine of people who are completely healthy and in the urine of people who have some type of illness. They might be found on a routine urine test or if your healthcare provider suspects another condition. One of the best ways to prevent crystals from developing is by drinking enough fluids.
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