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Have you ever gone to the toilet and thought something isn’t quite right afterwards? Maybe you found it has a colour you’re not used to, or noticed a funny smell. The colour of your urine can vary a great deal, even within the same day. One scientific study identified that it’s possible to detect more than 3,000 different chemicals within urine, and some of these can change what it looks like. There’s certainly a lot to learn from your pee!
We spoke with Dr John S. Young, Associate Professor in Urology, to discover more about what different urine colours might say about your health, and when you should see a medical professional.
Urine is mainly water, and contains many chemicals that the body wants to get rid of, including urea. Another of these chemicals is urobilin, which gives urine its yellow colour.
There isn’t just one “perfect” urine colour that is considered as healthy, and what is considered to be normal will vary from person to person. According to Dr. John, it largely depends on “how much and when fluids are consumed.”
“The more fluid someone consumes, the lighter the urine; so ‘healthy’ urine ranges from a very light shade of yellow to a dark yellow/amber colour if the individual is dehydrated. Our urine will typically be darker first thing in the morning, as the body has become a little dehydrated overnight.”
Atypical urine is urine that has an unusual colour, is cloudy or is smelly. Dr. John says it’s usually nothing to worry about, as “people tend to notice changes to the appearance of their urine but it can be because of something in their diet or due to taking medication.”
Eating certain foods can result in a change in your pee, and a slight shock until you remember what you ate for dinner the previous day! Foods like asparagus cause green-tinged, smelly urine, while eating beetroot can turn your urine pink. If we consume more B vitamins than our body requires, these are excreted and can make urine appear bright yellowy-green.
Taking certain medications can change the appearance of urine, resulting in the following colours.
The following urine colours can be the result of certain conditions or diseases.
Red or brown urine indicates blood in the urinary tract, resulting from infection, stones in the kidney or bladder, cancer or conditions such as interstitial cystitis and painful bladder syndrome.
Orange urine can be caused by the conditions listed under red/brown urine, as well as hinting to liver disease or problems with the bile duct.
Blue urine can be a sign of excessive calcium levels caused by a genetic condition called familial benign hypercalcemia, or of a UTI caused by a type of bacteria called Pseudomonas.
Purple urine is caused by a rare genetic condition called alkaptonuria, in which a chemical called homogentisic acid accumulates.
Smelly urine is usually produced because of a urinary tract infection. We talk about this in more detail in our article on urine smell.
Foamy urine means that protein is present, perhaps indicating kidney disease.
Dr. John has some useful advice which should act as your first port of call if you notice that your urine colour has changed:
“If changes in appearance of urine coincide with changes in medications (new medicines as well as changes to doses of existing medicines), it’s sensible to check the information sheet that comes with medications to see if changes to urine appearance are to be expected. Likewise, think about whether you’ve eaten anything new.”
“Otherwise, it’s sensible to consult a healthcare practitioner, just to be on the safe side. Red, pink or brown urine usually suggests that something is wrong – though, in most cases, it’s something that’s easily treatable.”