Abnormal urine color

Medical quality assurance by Dr. Albrecht Nonnenmacher, MD at December 13, 2015
StartSymptomsAbnormal urine color

Urine is a good indicator of health. An abnormal urine color could be completely normal - or a serious sign of health problems that needs to be addressed immediately.


Definition & Facts

Abnormal urine color is any color other than clear, or a pale straw-ish or amber color. A few of these colors include milky, cloudy, red, orange, brown, and green. Yes, there can be green urine. King George III is the king who so famously peed blue urine from time to time, and the story behind why leaves more than a little to be desired. As if that wasn't enough, Roman women would drink turpentine - a sometimes poisonous substance - to have urine that smelt like roses, but had a normal color.


Urine that is cloudy or milky has a variety of causes. They include bacteria, crystals, fat, blood, mucus, or a urinary tract infection. If the milky urine stinks, it is most likely a urinary tract infection.

Peeing blue urine like King George III indicates that the person has porphyria - in which porphyrins, a type of chemical in the body, is accumulating and finally released via the urine, and leaving a blue dye behind as it enters the urine. A dark yellow is caused by dehydration - anything darker than a translucent yellow to a light brown is considered to be caused by such. Orange urine can also indicate dehydration, but it can also indicate high levels of vitamin C, the pigment carotene found in orange colored foods, or taking certain medicines that treat urinary infections.

Reddish or pink colored urine can be a sign that there is blood in the urine, or that there are kidney stones, bladder stones, or also an enlarged prostate. After the consumption of beets, the urine is also reddish. Brown urine could be the result of eating fava beans, rhubarb, and aloe, or the outcome of urinary tract medicines, and liver disorders. Hepatitis can also cause a discoloration of urine, but it varies from person to person.

When to see a doctor

If staying hydrated and the color does not return to a clear or pale yellow, seek help as soon as possible. Brownish or syrup-y colored urine that will not go away, even when staying hydrated, warrants a visit to the doctor's office.

As does purple urine, since there is no such thing and it could be a hallucination. If the urine is fizzing or foaming and persists or happens on a regular basis, go see a doctor. This is an indicator of either too much protein or a kidney problem. Pink or red urine will always require a trip to the doctor's; it indicates some serious nasty issues - kidney disease, tumors, lead poisoning, and mercury poisoning are only a few of them.

If green urine decides to persist, see a doctor. While it could be from a food dye or a medication, it could be from bacteria or a urinary infection. Orange may also warrant a doctor's visit if hydrated and not eating anything that would have an orange dye. If it isn't one of these two reasons, orange urine indicates a condition with the liver or bile duct.

Treatment & Therapy

One of the best ways to treat discolored urine is to drink more water, pure and simple. This is the most common cause of discolored urine on a day to day basis. There's nothing that can be done for genetically discolored urine (looking at blue and green urine here), but medications can be changed to approach a more normal color.

If lead or mercury poisoning is to blame for the discoloration, there are treatment regiments for those separately. For lead poisoning, this includes reducing risks of further exposure, and getting Chelation (medicine that causes lead to come out more vigorously in urine) or EDTA (treatments with ethylenediaminetraacetic acid for one to three sessions) therapy. Discoloration caused by mercury poisoning is treated by removing mercury from the surroundings and a variety of actual treatment for the mercury in the body.

If the urine is an odd color due to a urinary tract infection, antibacterials or antivirals may be administered to help treat that, but the color may stay odd until the medicine and infection are completely flushed from the system. For a kidney stone cause, the kidney stone will be taken out or the person who has the kidney stone will be put on medicine to help with the pain and hopefully shrink the kidney stone.

For porphyria and its blue urine, symptoms will be treated. This could include iron supplements, blood transfusions, beta blockers for blood pressure control, a diet high in carbs to help recover from an episode, and even a bone marrow transplant if it is absolutely necessary. If a type of medication is to blame for the odd coloring in urine, it may be disregarded, or the doctor may decide to change the dosage in order to possibly eliminate some of the odd coloring.

Prevention & Prophylaxis

One of the best ways to prevent abnormal urine color is to simply stay hydrated. The aim is to have pale or translucent yellow urine. The darker the yellow, the more water is needed by the body. Nothing can prevent urine color changes from medications except for not taking that particular medication.

However, prophylaxis can include taking a small dose until it is certain that the dose needs to be increased, despite the possibility of abnormally colored urine. Not eating too many dyed foods can prevent the dyes from changing the color of urine afterward, even if the foods themselves have other important assets to the health of the human body.

While porphria cannot be prevented, prophylaxis includes: bone marrow transplants, high carb diets, beta blockers, etc. as mentioned above. Safe sex can prevent hepatitis and therefore prevent the urine discolorations that come with it if it is spiraling out of control and is in need of medical assistance. A urinary tract infection can be prevented by taking care of the body and by feeding it the proper foods.

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