Discolored Urine: Causes, Associated Conditions, and Diagnosis

Most causes of discolored urine are harmless, but others are more serious. If the color of your urine is outside of pale yellow and gold, then consider asking your doctor to take a urinalysis. Here are some potential causes of your discolored urine.

7 minute read

Last Updated July 17, 2020

Discolored Urine: Causes, Associated Conditions, and Diagnosis

Normal urine will be a color that ranges between pale yellow and gold. If there is any abnormal coloring such as hints of red, orange, green, blue, or brown, then you could have a problem. 

Medications and foods can cause your urine to change color, but if you are not aware of anything that could be causing discolored urine, you need to see your doctor. In some cases, a serious medical condition can cause your urine to change color, and this will need treatment right away.

Causes of Discolored Urine

Most causes of discolored urine are temporary and harmless, but others are more serious. It is important to take note of any changes to your urine so you can identify the cause and seek treatment if necessary. 

The cause of discolored urine depends on the color you see.

♦ Dark yellow urine is a sign of dehydration. When you drink plenty of fluids, it waters down your urine, making it paler in color. Lack of water causes the compounds in your urine to become concentrated, which results in a darker yellow color.

♦ Brown urine is caused by foods like fava beans and aloe, as well as medications. Brown urine can also indicate that you have a bladder or urinary tract infection as well as liver or kidney disorders. Severe muscle injuries can also cause your urine to turn brown in color. 

♦ Red or pink urine looks alarming, but it may not be serious. This discoloration can be caused by certain foods such as beets, berries, and rhubarb. Certain medications can turn your urine pink or red too. It can also be traces of blood caused by kidney or urinary tract infections.

♦ Orange urine is most often caused by medications such as laxatives, chemotherapy drugs, rifampin, and sulfasalazine. Problems with your bile ducts or liver can also cause your urine to turn orange. If your stools are also a pale color, then these conditions are more likely to be the cause than medications.

♦ Blue or green urine can be caused by food colorings, dyes used in kidney tests, and some medications. In rare cases, a urinary tract infection from the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa can also cause your urine to appear blue or green. A rare hereditary disease known as familial benign hypercalcemia can be another potential cause too.

Conditions Associated with Discolored Urine

As indicated, there are several health conditions and diseases that can cause discolored urine. If you notice a discoloration in your urine without any obvious reason, then you need to bring this to your doctor’s attention. Tests can be run to identify the cause, and if it is any of these conditions below, you can get treatment. 

Hepatitis: Hepatitis can cause your urine to be brownish in color as a result of the excess bilirubin. 

Urinary Tract Infection: Discolored urine can indicate a urinary tract infection. In most cases, the color will not change, but your urine will appear cloudy as a result of a bacterial presence. Cloudy urine with foam is more dangerous and requires immediate medical attention.

Pyelonephritis: This is a type of urinary tract infection that starts in your bladder or urethra and travels to your kidneys. Once in the kidneys, immediate medical attention is needed. An early sign can be a brownish color to your urine.

Kidney stones: Kidney stones develop as a result of an accumulation of mineral deposits. They are painful as they pass but do not cause serious damage. Your urine may be discolored (slightly brown) until the stones have fully passed.

Endocarditis: Endocarditis or inflammation of the lining of the heart also causes an enlarged spleen. An early sign of endocarditis can be red-colored urine as there can be increased levels of blood cells present.

Acute cystitis: This bladder infection causes a burning sensation and hematuria, which is the presence of blood cells in urine. Red or pink urine can be a sign of this infection.

Cancer: One of the earliest signs of bladder cancer is blood in the urine, so you would notice a red or pink coloring when you urinate. In some cases, it may appear slightly orange too. 

Urologic disease: This consists of a collection of diseases that impact the urinary tract, including your kidneys. As a result, urine color can change according to which condition you have. 

Benign enlargement of the prostate: An urgent need to urinate along with difficulty urinating are common symptoms of this condition. There is also an increased likelihood for blood to be present in urine, so you may notice red or pink urine too.

Acquired platelet function disorder: This disorder prevents your platelets from acting as they should, which means clotting does not occur as required. Along with excessive bleeding, you may also notice reddish urine. 

Diagnosing Discolored Urine

Along with your medical history and a physical exam, your doctor will perform certain diagnostic tests to evaluate and diagnose discolored urine. Blood tests can measure the levels of waste in your blood, which shows if your kidneys are working properly. 

Blood tests also look for liver enzymes, which indicate a diseased liver and high blood sugar levels, which can be a symptom of diabetes. Urinalysis is also done to look for red blood cells and high protein levels in your urine. Your urine can also be tested for bacterial infections that could be causing urinary tract infections. 

Treating Discolored Urine

The treatment for discolored urine will depend on the cause. Once a diagnosis is made, you may have to make simple lifestyle changes, or you may need to treat an underlying condition. 

In most cases, discolored urine can be treated by changing your diet, drinking more water, or changing medications. If there is an underlying condition or a disease causing the problem, it needs to be diagnosed and treated right away. 

What Is the Long-Term Outlook? 

Most causes of discolored urine are not serious, but there are medical conditions that could be the cause, which is why it is important to see your doctor. Many of the causes for discolored urine can be treated, and if there is an underlying cause, early diagnosis is essential for successful treatment. 

Seek medical attention if you notice discolored urine for more than a few days or if it occurs alongside other symptoms.

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