What Does the Color of Your Urine Mean?

Color can indicate wellness, dehydration and illness

Person's feet touching bathroom floor while urinating.

Color can indicate wellness, dehydration and illness

The color of your urine may not come up too much in discussions. But sometimes, it’s worth talking about, especially with your doctor. You see, the color of your urine can say volumes about what’s going on in your body and with your health.

Any consistent changes in the color of your pee — as well as smell — is something you’d want to bring up with your doctor, especially if it seems abnormal.

“Most of the time, urine color changes are temporary and harmless, maybe the result of not drinking enough water, something you ate or a side effect of medications you’re taking,” says Richard Onishi, MD, a family medicine physician at Scripps Clinic in Del Mar and Carmel Valley. “But in some cases, a change of color could be a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI), kidney stones or a more serious condition and requires medical attention.”

Urine color ranges from yellow to dark amber. But It can also be pink, red, orange, brown and even green and blue because so many factors can influence color. Certain colors should not be ignored.

“One of the things to watch for is blood in your urine, in case it is due to an underlying condition,” Dr. Onishi says. “If it continues or you have additional symptoms, don’t hesitate to make an appointment to see your doctor. You may be asked to take a urine test to check for infection or any early signs of a chronic illness.”

What is normal urine color?

The kidneys make urine by filtering wastes and excess water from the blood. Certain foods, food dyes, medications, illnesses as well as fluid balance can affect the color of urine.

Normal urine color is pale yellow to amber color.

Yellow urine

A pigment the body makes called urochrome causes the yellow color in urine. Fluids dilute this yellow pigment. The more water you drink, the clearer your urine looks. The less you drink, the darker it looks.

If very light, you may be drinking too much. If dark yellow or darker than usual, you may need to drink more fluids to stay hydrated.

Red or pink

Certain conditions can cause blood to appear in your urine, a symptom known as hematuria.

Red or pink urine can be a sign of a mild or serious condition. If there is pain associated, it could be a sign of a UTI or kidney stones. If there is no pain, it could be a sign of kidney or bladder cancer. In some cases, blood in urine can look brown.

“Make sure to bring up any of these symptoms with your doctor to rule out any serious problems,” Dr. Onishi says.

Red urine doesn’t always mean there’s a problem. Beets, blackberries and rhubarb can turn urine pink or red. Strenuous exercise, such as long-distance running, and certain medications can do so also.

Dark brown or orange

Dark brown or orange urine can be a sign of dehydration. It could also be a sign of an underlying liver condition.

“It could be a sign of liver or bile duct problems, especially if you also have light-colored stools,” Dr. Onishi says.

Certain foods, medications and vitamins can also cause urine in these colors. Fava beans, for example, can cause dark brown urine.

Blue or green urine

Green urine can result from a UTI. Blue urine can be caused by a rare genetic disorder. There may also be a less worrisome explanation for these colors. Certain food dyes and medications, for example, can turn urine blue or green.

In most cases, the color-changing pigment in the urine should be washed out within one to two days. In that timeframe, drink plenty of water. If the unusual color continues beyond the 24-hour timeframe, contact your physician.

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