The rainbow of urine colors: What’s typical, what’s not

MAYO CLINIC NEWS NETWORK – Regular urine color varies but usually ranges from clear to pale yellow. The exact hue depends on how much water you drink. Fluids dilute the yellow pigments in urine. So the more you drink, the clearer your urine looks. When you drink less, the yellow color becomes stronger.

Some foods and medications can change the color of urine. For example, foods like beets, blackberries and fava beans can turn urine pink or red. Some medications also can give urine vivid tones, such as orange or greenish-blue.

An unusual urine color also can be a sign of a health problem, however. For instance, some urinary tract infections can turn urine milky white. Kidney stones, some cancers and other diseases sometimes make urine look red due to blood.

Here are some unusual urine colors, along with things that can cause them.

Red or pink urine

Red urine isn’t always a sign of a serious health problem. Red or pink urine can be caused by:

  • Blood
    Health problems that can cause blood in the urine include an enlarged prostate, tumors that aren’t cancer, and kidney stones and cysts. Vigorous exercise also can cause blood in the urine. Blood in the urine is common in urinary tract infections and with kidney stones. Those problems often cause pain. Painless bleeding might be a sign of a more serious problem, such as cancer.
  • Foods
    Beets, blackberries and rhubarb can turn urine red or pink.
  • Medicines
    Red or pink urine is possible if you take medications for tuberculosis, urinary tract pain or constipation.

Orange urine

Orange urine can be caused by:

  • Medicines
    Constipation medicines can turn urine orange, as can medicine that lessens swelling and irritation, and some chemotherapy medicines for cancer.
  • Vitamins
    Some vitamins, such as A and B-12, can turn urine orange or yellow-orange.
  • Health problems
    Orange urine can be a sign of a problem with the liver or bile duct, mainly if you also have light-colored stools. Dehydration also can make your urine look orange.

Blue or green urine

Blue or green urine can be caused by:

  • Dyes
    Some brightly colored food dyes can cause green urine. Dyes used for some kidney and bladder tests can turn urine blue.
  • Medicines
    Some medicines for depression, ulcers and acid reflux can turn urine greenish-blue. Medications for pain, arthritis and sleep also can turn urine green.
  • Health problems
    A rare disease called familial benign hypercalcemia can cause children to have blue urine. Urinary tract infections caused by a certain bacteria can cause green urine.

Dark brown or cola-colored urine

Brown urine can be caused by:

  • Foods
    Eating lots of fava beans, rhubarb or aloe can cause dark brown urine.
  • Medicines
    Some medicines can darken urine, including those used to treat and prevent malaria, constipation, high cholesterol and seizures. Some antibiotics and muscle relaxers also can darken urine.
  • Health problems
    Some liver and kidney disorders and urinary tract infections can turn urine dark brown. So can bleeding inside the body, called a hemorrhage. A group of illnesses mainly affecting the skin or the nervous system, called porphyria, also can cause brown urine.
  • Extreme exercise
    A muscle injury from extreme training can cause tea- or cola-colored urine. The injury can lead to kidney damage.

Cloudy or murky urine

Urinary tract infections and kidney stones can cause urine to look cloudy or murky.

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Keep in mind that colors can look slightly different to different people. For instance, what looks red to you might look orange to someone else. Talk with your healthcare team if you have concerns and in particular if you have painful urination or dark orange urine, which can be a sign that your liver isn’t working correctly.

Ashley Pountney is a physician assistant in Urology in Austin and Albert Lea, Minnesota.

This article first published on the Mayo Clinic Health System blog.

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