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What Your Urine Color Says About Your Health

June 20, 2024

An image of urine test.

We all urinate. It’s an everyday, natural bodily function.

But do you ever notice what color your urine is? When was the last time you checked?

The color of your urine can tell a lot about your health. Perry Leong, MD, an internal medicine doctor with Atlantic Health System, explains what healthy urine looks like, why urine color may change and when it can signal it’s time to see a doctor.

What Healthy Urine Looks Like

Urine is made by your kidneys. It’s the liquid byproduct of your body breaking down waste and extra water. Healthy urine is clear (not cloudy), odorless and in a shade of yellow that can range from very pale to a darker, amber-like hue.

“The shade of your urine depends on your hydration level,” explains Dr. Leong. “The gold standard, so to speak, is to achieve a pale yellow color the shade of diluted apple juice. Light and clear.”

Reasons For Change in Urine Color

As Dr. Leong indicated, how much water you drink can influence your urine color — and so can many other factors.

  • Hydration – If you drink a lot of water and are well hydrated, your urine will be very pale and odorless. If, on the other hand, you don’t drink enough and are therefore dehydrated, your urine will be darker and stronger smelling because it’s more concentrated.
  • Food – Eating certain foods can temporarily change your urine color. Beets, for example, may cause your urine to turn pink or red, and food coloring or dyes can create a blue or green tinge. Food-related color changes usually reverse within a day or two after drinking plenty of water to flush them out.
  • Medication and supplements – A common side effect of certain medications, vitamins and supplements is a change in urine color. Antibiotics to treat tuberculosis and over-the-counter bladder medication for infections, for example, can both result in orange-colored urine. Excess water-soluble vitamins, like vitamins B and C, will produce darker yellow urine because the unused portion will be broken down in your kidneys, creating a more concentrated (and therefore, darker) urine.
  • Disease or chronic health condition – Some urine colors may signal more serious health conditions. Brown or tea-colored urine could mean gallbladder or liver disease, a blockage or stones. It can also be a sign of muscle breakdown (often the result of a crushing accident or extreme exercise leading to a condition called rhabdomyolysis). Red urine, if caused by blood, may be a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI), kidney stones or cancer of the kidneys or bladder.

“Cloudy or foamy white urine can also be a sign of rhabdomyolysis (severe muscle breakdown), which can be life-threatening,” warns Dr. Leong.

When to See a Doctor

A change in urine color alone may not be a reason for concern. However, if you’re also experiencing symptoms such as abdominal pain, fever or a general feeling of unwellness, it’s time to call your doctor.

Other symptoms that warrant evaluation include:

  • Blood in urine
  • Brown, tea-colored urine
  • Pain, fever, malaise, unintentional weight loss or other symptoms
  • Other preexisting health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes

“If you notice a change in your urine color and are experiencing other symptoms, go to the doctor for an evaluation,” encourages Dr. Leong. “There could be a simple explanation, but it’s always better to check. That advice applies to your health in general.”

Be Proactive About Your Health

To stay safe and healthy, it's good to have a primary care provider who knows and understands your health history and wellness goals.