Urine Color and its Meaning
The urine color can be used as a very useful diagnostic as well as screening tool to identify the disorders of urinary system. The normal urine color varies from person to person and within the same individual, depending upon the hydration status and urinary frequency. Ideally, urine is honey-colored (deep amber) in concentrated form and straw-colored in diluted form. Besides color, several other physical characteristics such as smell and density of urine can also tell a lot about the functioning of urinary system.
Color of your Pee and what does it tell about your health?
The normal urine color and smell of urine is attributed to the pigment urochrome; which is produced as a result of protein breakdown. Depending upon your hydration status, your urine color may vary from transparent to golden yellow. In most cases, it is physiological.
- Clear/ Transparent Urine: Extremely clear or transparent urine is suggestive of high water intake or ultra-purification functioning of kidneys. Although it is normal, yet it indicates that you should slightly cut down your water intake.
- Straw-colored to transparent yellow color Urine: The urine of a normal, well-hydrated individual is transparent yellow.
- Dark Yellow Urine: This suggests slight dehydration and should be considered as a sign to drink some water.
- Honey-colored or Amber Urine: Darker urine is suggestive of dehydration. It doesn’t necessarily indicates compromised renal function or a disease state; but is definitely indicative of poor water intake.
If your urine has a hint of any other color, you should see a doctor at your earliest convenience. Some common pathological scenarios are:
1. Red-colored Urine:
The major symptom is the change in the urine color from normal (yellowish) to red, pinkish or cola-colored. The red discoloration of urine is attributed mainly to the presence of blood, (specifically red blood cells) in the urine. This condition is usually not associated with pain during micturition, but if the blood is in clotted forms; painful micturition is usually present. There are many foods (beets, rhubarb, berries), drugs (laxatives) and drinks which may change the urine color from normal to reddish, but usually the discoloration disappears as soon as the person stop taking that drug or food. If you are experiencing reddish discoloration of urine, it is very important to see a healthcare professional at an earliest convenience to identify the actual cause of blood in the urine.
Other classic causes are:
- Cancer: Neoplastic growth in the kidneys, bladder or urethra can present with gross and microscopic hematuria (depending upon the size of malignant or benign growth). According to a study reported in Oncology Reports (1), onset of blood in urine and detection of cancer breakdown products can help a great deal in early detection of certain cancers.
- Inherited disorders: Sickle cell disease due to excessive hemolysis and Alport syndrome due to defects in the glomerular membranes can also cause gross hematuria.
- Kidney trauma: A blunt trauma in the flank region (as a result of assault or road-traffic accidents) can also cause hematuria.
- Prostatic Enlargement or malignancy: Elderly males often experience hematuria due to prostatic enlargement.
- Severe exercise or intense physical activity: It is very rare but a possible cause of gross hematuria, due to dehydration, bladder injury or hemolysis.
2. Brown ale or Syrup colored Urine:
Brownish discoloration of urine is common in individuals suffering from serious dehydration or chronic liver disease. In most cases, increasing water intake can resolve the urinary discoloration due to dehydration (but not due to liver failure).
3. Orange colored Urine:
High intake of dietary carotenoids (present in carrots) may impart an orange colored to the urine. Likewise, certain drugs (especially those that are taken to manage the symptoms of Tuberculosis) can also impart an orange color to all bodily secretions including urine.
4. Blue or Green colored Urine:
Congenital genetic defects of certain enzymes can affect the metabolism of some proteins and may cause blue or green colored urine. Other causes include; bacterial infection of urinary tract or vagina and certain food coloring agents.
It is strongly advised to see a healthcare professional at earliest convenience to minimize the risk of complications.
Urine Odor – What does it mean?
The urine produced by normal, well-hydrated kidneys is odorless. A strong smell indicates either dehydration or an ongoing disease process. You should be alarmed if your urine has a noticeable/ pungent odor:
- Ammonia like smell: Pungent ammonia like smell of urine is reported by individuals who have an ongoing urinary infection or urinary calculi.
- Sweet/ fruity Odor: Presence of urinary sugars (such as in diabetics) is marked by a sugary odor.
- Pungent odor: Consumption and metabolism of certain foods can also alter the odor of urine. For example, high intake of garlic, asparagus and some other vegetables can produce a distinct smell due to breakdown of methyl mercaptan and other sulfur containing compounds.
It is very important to maintain optimal urinary health by maintaining adequate water intake. You should see a healthcare professional at earliest convenience if you are experiencing any changes in the normal color or odor of urine.
1. Tölle, A., Jung, M., Rabenhorst, S., Kilic, E., Jung, K., & Weikert, S. (2013). Identification of microRNAs in blood and urine as tumour markers for the detection of urinary bladder cancer. Oncology reports, 30(4), 1949-1956.
2. Singh, A. K., Agrawal, P., kumar Singh, A., & Singh, O. (2014). Differentials of abnormal urine color: A review. Annals of Applied Bio-Sciences, 1(1), R21-R25.