What does urine tell us about our health problems?
Urine is a liquid waste product that is produced by the kidneys when they filter the blood. Urine contains water and various substances that the body does not need or has excess of, such as salts, toxins, hormones, and metabolites. Urine is stored in the bladder and expelled from the body through the urethra. Urine can provide important clues about our health and can help detect or diagnose various diseases and conditions that affect the urinary system or other organs.
How to check your urine?
One of the simplest ways to check your urine is to look at its color and smell. Normal urine is usually clear or pale yellow with a slight odor. However, urine color and smell can change due to various factors, such as diet, hydration, medications, supplements, infections, or diseases. Here are some common changes in urine color and smell and what they may indicate:
Clear urine: This is a sign of good hydration and potential overhydration. Drinking too much water can dilute the electrolytes in the blood and cause low sodium levels, which can be dangerous.
Dark yellow or amber urine: This is a sign of dehydration and lack of fluids. Dehydration can cause headaches, fatigue, dry mouth, and constipation. It can also increase the risk of kidney stones and urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Orange urine: This can be caused by various foods (such as carrots, beets, or blackberries) or medications (such as rifampin, phenazopyridine, or warfarin) that can change the color of urine. Orange urine can also be a sign of liver or bile duct problems, such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, or gallstones.
Red or pink urine: This can be caused by foods (such as cranberries, rhubarb, or beets) or medications (such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or some antibiotics) that can stain the urine. Red or pink urine can also indicate blood in the urine, which can be a sign of kidney disease, kidney stones, bladder cancer, prostate problems, or UTIs.
Brown or tea-colored urine: This can be caused by foods (such as fava beans, rhubarb, or aloe) or medications (such as metronidazole, nitrofurantoin, or some laxatives) that can darken the urine. Brown or tea-colored urine can also indicate liver or kidney problems, such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, or acute kidney injury.
Green or blue urine: This can be caused by foods (such as asparagus, spinach, or blueberries) or medications (such as amitriptyline, indomethacin, or propofol) that can alter the color of urine. Green or blue urine can also indicate a rare genetic condition called familial hypercalcemia, which causes high levels of calcium in the blood and urine.
Cloudy urine: This can be caused by dehydration, which can make the urine more concentrated and less transparent. Cloudy urine can also indicate the presence of bacteria, white blood cells, mucus, or crystals in the urine, which can be a sign of UTIs, kidney stones, kidney damage, or other infections.
Foul-smelling urine: This can be caused by foods (such as asparagus, garlic, or fish) or medications (such as penicillin, ciprofloxacin, or vitamin B6) that can affect the odor of urine. Foul-smelling urine can also indicate the presence of bacteria, pus, or blood in the urine, which can be a sign of UTIs, kidney infections, or sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
When to see a doctor?
Changes in urine color and smell are usually harmless and temporary, but sometimes they can indicate a serious medical problem. You should see a doctor as soon as possible if you have any of the following symptoms along with abnormal urine:
A new or persistent urge to urinate
Pain or burning when urinating
Difficulty starting or stopping urination
Weak or interrupted urine stream
Involuntary loss of urine or urinary incontinence
Pain in your back, side, or groin
Fever, chills, or sweats
Nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite
Unexplained weight loss or gain
Fatigue, weakness, or drowsiness
Swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet
Blurred vision, headaches, or confusion
Discharge from your penis or vagina
Change in your sexual function or desire
What are some common urinary disorders?
There are many diseases and conditions that can affect the urinary system or other organs and cause changes in urine. Some of the most common urinary disorders include:
Urinary tract infections (UTIs): These are infections that occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and multiply in the bladder, ureters, or kidneys. UTIs can cause pain, burning, or urgency when urinating, cloudy or bloody urine, fever, and lower abdominal or back pain. UTIs are more common in women than men and can be treated with antibiotics.
Kidney stones: These are hard deposits of minerals and salts that form in the kidneys or the urinary tract. Kidney stones can cause severe pain, nausea, vomiting, blood in urine, and difficulty urinating. Kidney stones can be passed out of the body through urine or removed by surgery or other procedures.
Bladder control problems: These are conditions that affect the ability to hold or release urine. Bladder control problems can cause urinary incontinence, which is the involuntary loss of urine, or urinary retention, which is the inability to empty the bladder completely. Bladder control problems can be caused by various factors, such as aging, pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, prostate enlargement, nerve damage, or medications. Bladder control problems can be treated with lifestyle changes, exercises, medications, devices, or surgery.
Prostate problems: These are conditions that affect the prostate gland, which is a small organ that produces fluid for semen and surrounds the urethra in men. Prostate problems can cause urinary symptoms, such as difficulty urinating, weak urine stream, frequent or urgent urination, blood in urine, or pain in the lower abdomen or back. Prostate problems can include benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is the enlargement of the prostate due to aging, prostate cancer, which is the abnormal growth of cells in the prostate, or prostatitis, which is the inflammation or infection of the prostate. Prostate problems can be diagnosed with blood tests, urine tests, or imaging tests, and can be treated with medications, surgery, or other therapies.
Kidney disease: This is a condition that affects the function of the kidneys, which are responsible for filtering the blood and removing waste and excess fluid from the body. Kidney disease can cause various symptoms, such as changes in urine, swelling, high blood pressure, anemia, bone problems, or cardiovascular problems. Kidney disease can be caused by various factors, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, infections, autoimmune disorders, or genetic disorders. Kidney disease can be diagnosed with blood tests, urine tests, or imaging tests, and can be treated with medications, dialysis, or kidney transplantation.
How to prevent or treat urinary problems?
Many urinary problems can be prevented or treated with simple lifestyle changes, such as:
Drinking enough fluids, especially water, to stay hydrated and flush out toxins and bacteria from the urinary tract
Avoiding or limiting caffeine, alcohol, carbonated drinks, artificial sweeteners, and spicy or acidic foods that can irritate the bladder or kidneys
Eating a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products, and avoiding foods that are high in salt, sugar, or fat that can increase the risk of kidney stones or kidney disease
Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly to improve blood circulation and prevent obesity, diabetes, or high blood pressure that can damage the kidneys or the urinary tract
Practicing good hygiene and wiping from front to back after using the toilet to prevent the spread of bacteria from the anus to the urethra
Urinating when you feel the urge and emptying your bladder completely to prevent urinary retention or infection
Avoiding holding your urine for too long or too often, which can weaken the bladder muscles and increase the risk of urinary incontinence or infection
Doing pelvic floor exercises, such as Kegels, to strengthen the muscles that support the bladder and the urethra and improve bladder control
Quitting smoking, which can harm the kidneys and the bladder and increase the risk of bladder cancer
Managing stress, which can affect the nervous system and the urinary function
Taking medications as prescribed and following your doctor’s instructions for any urinary disorders or conditions
Seeking medical attention if you have any signs or symptoms of urinary problems or if you notice any changes in your urine that persist or worsen
Urine is a valuable indicator of our health and can help us detect or diagnose various urinary disorders or conditions. By paying attention to our urine and taking care of our urinary system, we can prevent or treat many urinary problems and improve our overall well-being.
Dr. Karuturi Subrahmanyam, MD, FRCP (London), FACP (USA)
Internal Medicine Specialist
Phone : 85000 23456