What does your urine color say about your health?

Normal urine color ranges from pale yellow to deep amber — the result of a pigment called urochrome and how diluted or concentrated the urine is.

Pigments and other compounds in certain foods and medications may change your urine color. Beets, berries and fava beans are among the foods most likely to affect urine color. Many over-the-counter and prescription medications give urine vivid tones, such as raspberry red, lemon yellow or greenish blue.

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An unusual urine color can be a sign of disease. For instance, deep red to brown urine is an identifying characteristic of porphyria, a rare, inherited disorder of red blood cells.

Normal urine color varies, depending 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 color becomes more concentrated. Severe dehydration can produce urine the color of amber.

But sometimes urine can turn colors far beyond what’s normal, including red, blue, green, dark brown and cloudy white.

When to see a doctor

Seek medical attention if you have:

  • Visible blood in your urine. Bloody urine is common in urinary tract infections and kidney stones. Both of these problems usually cause pain. Painless bleeding may signal a more serious problem, such as cancer.
  • Dark or orange urine. If your urine is dark or orange — particularly if you also have pale stools and yellow skin and eyes — your liver might be malfunctioning.

Despite its alarming appearance, red urine isn’t necessarily serious. Red or pink urine may be caused by:

  • Blood. Factors that can cause urinary blood (hematuria) include urinary tract infections, enlarged prostate, cancerous and noncancerous tumors, kidney cysts, long-distance running, and kidney or bladder stones.
  • Foods. Beets, blackberries and rhubarb can turn urine red or pink.
  • Medications. Rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane), an antibiotic often used to treat tuberculosis, can turn urine reddish orange — as can phenazopyridine (Pyridium), a drug that numbs urinary tract discomfort, and laxatives containing senna.
  • Medications. Medications that can turn urine orange include rifampin; the anti-inflammatory drug sulfasalazine (Azulfidine); phenazopyridine (Pyridium), a drug that numbs urinary tract discomfort; some laxatives; and certain chemotherapy drugs.

Orange urine

Orange urine may result from:

Medical conditions. In some cases, orange urine can indicate a problem with your liver or bile duct, especially if you also have light-colored stools. Orange urine may also be caused by dehydration, which can concentrate your urine and make it much deeper in color.

Blue or green urine

Blue or green urine may be caused by:

  • Dyes. Some brightly colored food dyes can cause green urine. Dyes used for some tests of kidney and bladder function can turn urine blue.
  • Medications. A number of medications produce blue or green urine, including amitriptyline, indomethacin (Indocin) and propofol (Diprivan).
  • Medical conditions. Familial benign hypercalcemia, a rare inherited disorder, is sometimes called blue diaper syndrome because children with the disorder have blue urine. Green urine sometimes occurs during urinary tract infections caused by pseudomonas bacteria.

Dark brown or cola-colored urine

Brown urine can result from:

  • Food. Eating large amounts of fava beans, rhubarb or aloe can cause dark brown urine.
  • Medications. A number of drugs can darken urine, including the antimalarial drugs chloroquine and primaquine, the antibiotics metronidazole (Flagyl) and nitrofurantoin, laxatives containing cascara or senna, and methocarbamol — a muscle relaxant.
  • Medical conditions. Some liver and kidney disorders can turn urine dark brown, as can some urinary tract infections.
  • Extreme exercise. Muscle injury from extreme exercise can result in pink or cola-colored urine and kidney damage.

Cloudy or murky urine

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

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