While you may not want to think about it, your urine is an indicator of your overall health.
Normal urine is 95% water plus other compounds extracted from your body. The kidneys produce it as they filter out excess waste and water from the blood circulating in our bodies. Changes in urinary habits or appearance may point to an underlying medical condition.
Common signs include discoloration of urine, cloudy or bloody urine, frequency, or pain during urination. If you observe something abnormal, contact your physician for a urinalysis lab test and possible blood work.
What does your pee look like?
The color and clarity of your urine can tell you a lot.
A straw-like hue means you're adequately hydrated. Normal pee color isn't completely clear; it has a tinge of yellow.
This is a sign that you're dehydrated and need to drink more fluids.
This could point to an elevated level of vitamin B in the blood. If you often see this pee color, speak with your doctor.
If your urine is completely clear, you are probably drinking too much water and other liquids within a short period. This could lower the number of electrolytes in your body.
red or pink
While off-putting, this color could be a harmless result of eating beets or rhubarb. Or, it could be a sign of blood in the urine. This can be caused by conditions ranging from a simple infection to cancer. Bloody urine is never normal and should be evaluated by a doctor for treatment. Please don't assume this will resolve on its own.
If you eat a lot of carrots, your urine may temporarily turn orange. Otherwise, this color could be caused by dehydration, jaundice, or bile in the urine. If you are taking medications, such as chemotherapy drugs, sulfasalazine, or laxatives, this can also lead to an orange hue in your urine.
Consuming rhubarb or aloe might turn your pee color brown. Other causes might include dehydration, urinary tract infection (UTI), jaundice, medications including chloroquine and metronidazole, and intense exercise.
green or blue
This pee color change can be alarming but may be caused simply by consuming food coloring. Similarly, the dyes injected into patients undergoing imaging scans of the kidneys or bladder can also stain urine blueish green. This color difference can also be a sign of bacterial infection or a side effect of drugs, including indomethacin, amitriptyline, and propofol.
Cloudy urine can be the result of being dehydrated, or having a UTI, kidney stones, or some chronic disorders.
Does your pee smell weird?
A strong or ammonia-like smell indicates your urine might be concentrated due to dehydration. Or, it could be a sign of UTI, kidney stone, bladder infection, diabetes, or metabolic disease. If this persists when you're hydrated, see a doctor.
The smell of urine can also change with certain medications and after drinking coffee or eating asparagus or a lot of garlic.
Does it hurt when you pee?
Painful or burning urination often warrants additional tests, including a urinalysis.
It can be caused by:
- UTI when bacteria infects the kidneys, bladder, or urethra
- inflammation of the vagina
- inflammation of the bladder or urethra
- prostate disease or prostate cancer
- undiagnosed cancer (rare)
Are you peeing a lot?
Frequent urination can disrupt normal activities such as sleep, work, and hobbies, which can be very frustrating. However, it can be part of the normal aging process. As we age, the bladder loses its ability to store urine well, and the bladder muscle squeezes more than it should.
Frequent urination can also be caused by:
- increased fluid intake, especially drinking large amounts of caffeine or alcohol
- taking certain medications, such as diuretics
- UTIs, which can inflame the bladder and cause an increased urgency to void
- diabetes, which can affect the urinary tract and cause the kidneys to excrete large amounts of water, producing excess urine
- enlarged prostate in older men can provoke frequent urination or difficulty urinating
Your body needs water to function at its best every day.
Approximately 45 to 75% of your total weight and up to 75% of your muscle mass is water. Because you're literally made of H2O, it's essential to keep yourself fully hydrated.
Severe dehydration is extremely dangerous and can lead to vision problems, mental confusion, organ failure, and even death.
Mild dehydration can negatively affect your physical performance, balance, energy level, mental focus, memory, and mood. It's incredibly important for the elderly (who experience a decreased sense of thirst), young children, athletes, and those with heart conditions to drink enough water.
You're also at a greater risk for dehydration when your body is under stress or fighting off a cold or flu.
How to stay hydrated
- Start your day with a full glass of water (not just coffee or juice).
- Sip (don't gulp) water throughout the day. Quickly ingesting a glass of water will send you to the bathroom, but it may not be fully absorbed by your body.
- Drink room temperature (or even warm) water. Cold water shocks your digestive system.
- Drink even more water before, during, and after you exercise.
- Replenish your body's water after sweating.
- Drink more water before and after you consume sweetened, alcoholic, or caffeinated beverages.
Medically reviewed by Katherine Amin, M.D., a urologist with the University of Miami Health System.
Written by Dana Kantrowitz, a contributor to UMiami Health News.
For more on what you can learn from the things in your toilet, click here.