You pee more often in a day than you might eat — at least six to eight times, and maybe even more if you're drinking the right amount of water. It's no wonder that the study of urine, or urinalysis, has been around for hundreds of years. According to Dr. Tomas Griebling, vice chair of the urology department at the University of Kansas, it's "one of the original windows into what's happening in the body." Doctors today still rely on pee to tell a true story about someone's health.
Your kidneys are a complicated filtration system, and while you're busy milling about your day, not even thinking about them in the slightest, they're working hard to sift through 200 liters of your blood. Since your urine is a compilation of the waste that's been swimming around in your body, it says a lot about what kind of potential health issues you're facing, whether it's a bacterial infection or early onset diabetes.
So whether your urine is looking cloudy, bright yellow, or even red, don't ignore your pee; it could be the most reliable health guru you've ever had. Here are seven important things your urine can tell you about your health, according to experts.
1. You Have A Urinary Tract Infection
Anyone who has ever had a UTI knows all about the cruel stinging sensation (and may be haunted by it forever) — but that's not the only giveaway you have a UTI. The following also might indicate an unfriendly infection: having to go pronto all the time, yet only the tiniest bit trickles out; a pungent odor that reminds you a bit of ammonia; and pee that is gloomy-looking and cloudy.
Out of all the warning signs, the murkiness of your urine is one that shouldn't be taken lightly. "A UTI occurs when bacteria get inside the bladder and multiply," Dr. Robert M. Mordkin, MD, FACS and Urologist, chief medical officer for LetsGetChecked, tells Bustle. "The infection prompts an inflammatory response from the bladder wall and this leads to cloudy appearing urine."
Getting a urine culture from your doctor can help to determine if a UTI is to blame for this change in your urine.
2. You're Dehydrated
Dehydration manifests in all sorts of colors and smells. You might think that a yellow-filled toilet bowl is a good sign, but the shade of yellow matters. If you see a dark or amber tone, you need to spend more time around the water cooler. Other colors indicating that you're desperately in need of H2O are orange and brown.
"[T]he urine can look cloudy if dehydrated," Dr. Mordkin says. "This is because the various solutes/particles in the urine are more visible if they are not diluted by large quantities of water."
You're definitely also dehydrated if your urine is also emitting a strong, irksome scent that reminds you of ammonia. Be aware if you aren't going to the bathroom as often as normal, or, when you finally do go to relieve yourself, your pee barely trickles out and it seems concentrated.
3. You're Getting Enough B12
If you're an avid taker of vitamin B12, it's easy to get confused by what your pee is trying to tell you. Consuming a lot of this particular vitamin, whether it's through food or a supplement, can cause changes in your urine.
"Vitamin B is a 'water soluble' vitamin," Dr. Mordkin says. "This means that any vitamin B that your body doesn’t need, it will get rid of through the urine and this can make the urine look very yellow or even orange in color."
If you're drinking enough water and want to test if the color is a sign of something else, you could always stop taking your multivitamin for a few days and see if the color changes.
4. Your Kidneys Are Damaged
Is your pee bright red? You might have kidney stones or cysts, or an infection that needs to be treated. If you're cringing every time you pee from the discomfort, don't waste any time to get yourself checked out.
Sometimes, your body also tries to tell you that you've got a kidney disorder by spouting pee that is dark brown, murky, and/or bloody, according to the Mayo Clinic. These colors and textures are likely present because of kidney stones, which irritate the ureter, the tube responsible for transporting urine from the kidneys to the bladder, and generate troublesome looking urine.
Characteristics like these are often connected with extreme levels of exercising, Harvard Health reports, such as running for long distances, since the continuous harsh impact takes a toll on the bladder and can disturb the otherwise normal appearance of urine.
Yet another sign of damaged kidneys is bubbles that appear in your urine. Dr. Leslie Spry, a spokesperson for the National Kidney Foundation, writes for Huffington Post and says that these particular fizzles are stubborn, and they won't just go away with a flush. "A lot of protein in the urine can cause the urine to appear off color," Dr. Fara Bellows, an urologist with The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Bustle, and this can cause these bubbles and point to kidney issues.
5. You Have A Red Blood Cell Disorder
Purple pee is a real thing, and if you see a violet hue staring back at you from the toilet bowl, it could mean you've been dealing with a rare red blood cell disorder called porphyria, according to The Mayo Clinic. Most likely inherited from your parents, it causes your body to manufacture abnormally high levels of porphyrins, which are responsible for producing hemoglobins, a protein in red blood cells that binds iron and carries oxygen to all your organs.
Too many porphyrins in your system negatively affect the levels of heme, a component of hemoglobin, in the liver, causing an imbalance of enzymes and a buildup of chemical compounds. This could wreak havoc on your organs and nervous system.
But there may be other causes for seeing blood in your urine, and all should be addressed by a doctor. "This is somewhat rare, but people who have trouble with bleeding disorders may be at higher likelihood to see blood in their urine," Dr. Bellows says. "However, this does not mean that they do not need to be checked to make sure there is no cause for bleeding, like tumors or stones."
6. You Have Liver Problems
When doctors are diagnosing a liver disease, one of the first things they do is take a good look at the patient's urine. A dark color is no good, as it points to jaundice or cholestasis, according to John Hopkins Medicine, both of which are symptoms of an unhappy liver.
"If a patient develops liver failure, this will often lead to high levels of bilirubin in the urine which makes the urine look very dark," Dr. Mordkin says.
If you're catching a whiff of something unpleasantly musty (think of the stuff that's sitting in your parents' attic), let that be the final nudge to chat with your doctor about the state of your liver.
7. You Have Diabetes
Sugar in the urine is a red flag, and if you are picking up on a sweet smell every time you pee, you should probably get tested for diabetes. "Patients with diabetes have high blood sugar levels," Dr. Mordkin says. "The kidneys will 'spill' the sugar into the urine and this drags water with it. Therefore, the symptom that patients with diabetes may notice is urinary frequency due to high urine production."
Similarly, Dr. Bellows says to be aware if you are peeing a lot. "Urinary frequency, urgency, and waking up from sleep to urinate (called nocturia) are signs of diabetes," Dr. Bellows says. "Frequent urinary tract infections can also be a sign of diabetes."
Check with your doctor immediately if these sound like familiar bodily functions, because just being in pre-diabetes mode can seriously damage your kidneys in the long run if you're not taking the necessary precautions.
Cloudy pee may be alarming, but there is no cause to worry — talk to your doctor and they can help you get to the bottom of what's causing the issue.
This post was originally published on May 7, 2016. It was updated on June 3, 2019. Additional reporting by Kristin Magaldi.
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