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A color-coded guide to urine

Normal urine has a yellow color, thanks to the pigment urochrome.  Urochrome is a yellow pigment formed when urobilinogen produced during the breakdown of hemoglobin is exposed to air. 

The pigment is specific to urine, but the intensity of its yellow color depends on the amount of water present in the urine. So generally normal urine can be straw-colored, yellow, or amber, depending on how dilute it is.

What color is abnormal?

Pale yellow to amber urine is normal. But the intensity of the color depends on whether it is dilute or concentrated.  Healthy urine may be clear or colorless if you drink a lot of water. But when you drink less, your urine becomes more concentrated and darker. That is why normal urine may appear honey or golden when you drink less water or are dehydrated.

Apart from fluid intake, several other factors determine the color of urine. For instance, urine color is affected by diet, vitamins, exercise, and medicines. A bright yellow pee color may be due to a high dose of vitamin B. 

When your pee color turns from the normal pale yellow to colors such as red, blue, brown, orange, or green, something may be wrong.  Of course, the usual causes of such changes may be diet, exercise, or medications, but these colors may also signal a serious health issue that requires urgent medical attention.

Here is a color-coded guide to urine appearance

  1. Clear urine

Clear urine indicates that you’re probably drinking more water than the daily recommended amount. Of course, being well-hydrated is good, but drinking too much can rob your body of some essential electrolytes.

If your urine is only occasionally clear, you shouldn’t be bothered. However, when it is always clear, then you should cut back on how much water you drink. 

Persistently clear urine even after reducing the volume of water you drink may indicate viral hepatitis or liver cirrhosis. Hence, if your urine is clear for a while and you’re not drinking large amounts of water, then you should see your doctor.

  1. Pink or red urine

Your urine can have a pink or red color after you eat foods with naturally deep pink or magenta colors, such as beets, rhubarb and blackberries. But certain medications may also give a red or pink color. For instance, medications like senna or senna-containing laxatives, phenazopyridine (Pyridium), and antibiotic Rifampin, can give a red or pink color to urine.

If you can rule out these foods and medications, then a red color indicates hematuria (blood in urine). Hematuria can be due to a range of health problems, such as kidney or bladder stones, urinary tract infections, an enlarged prostate, and tumors of the bladder and kidneys.

 Extreme exercise can also cause hematuria if it produces muscle damage, a condition called “runner’s bladder.”

  1. Light brown or orange urine

Urine can be orange when you are dehydrated. But your urine can also be light brown or orange when it has a high amount of blood due to urinary tract infection or bleeding from the bladder (especially in bladder cancer). 

Some medications, such as phenazopyridine (Pyridium), the anti-inflammatory drug sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), chemotherapy drugs, and some laxatives can equally cause urine to appear reddish-orange.

  1. Dark brown urine

If your urine looks like cola, it may be due to dehydration or to some foods, such as fava beans, aloe and rhubarb. Some medications, like laxatives, antibiotics, and muscle relaxants may also give urine a dark brown color.

When these are ruled out, then the dark brown color may be due to hepatitis, other liver disorder, or kidney malfunction, especially if you also have yellowing skin and eyes and pale stools.

  1. Blue or green urine

Food dyes can turn urine green or blue. For example, methylene blue dye found in many types of candy gives urine a bluish tinge. Also, some dyes used to test kidney or bladder function can turn urine blue. 

Besides, your urine may be blue or green due to medications, such as pain-relievers, anti-depressant drugs, urinary tract infections (green), or the rare inherited disorder called “blue diaper syndrome” that occurs in children.

When should you seek medical attention?

You should generally be proactive in seeking medical attention when your urine maintains an alarming color that gets your attention. Colors such as red or pink may be due to a serious health condition requiring urgent medical attention.

At Advanced Urology Institute, we work with our patients to ensure they appreciate the importance of a healthy urinary system on their overall health. For more information on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of urologic disorders, visit our website “Advanced Urology Institute.”

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Advanced Urology Institute

Advanced Urology Institute is the largest urology practice in Florida. We are dedicated to improving the lives of our patients by providing excellent Patient-Centered Care. Set an appointment or visit our closest office near you.

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