Urochrome, a pigment in urine, causes its yellow color. Drinking liquids can dilute the color, so bright yellow pee may indicate dehydration. Some vitamins, medications, and health conditions can also cause it.
Urine color generally ranges from a pale-yellow color to deep amber. This coloring is primarily caused by the pigment urochrome, also known as urobilin.
Whether your urine is diluted by water or in a more concentrated form determines the appearance of the pigment. The more water you drink, and the more hydrated you become, the lighter the pigment in your urine.
The pigments and chemical compounds in the foods you eat and the medications you take also alter the color of your urine. These changes are fairly standard and typically don’t last for long.
Certain changes in color may be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
Everyone has a different “normal” when it comes to the color of urine, but it should fall on the yellow spectrum.
The amount of water you drink influences whether the color is a pale yellow or a dark amber. People who drink more water and stay hydrated typically produce more diluted, pale urine compared to those who are dehydrated or consume less water.
If the color of your urine falls outside of this yellow spectrum — like urine that’s cloudy or brown — you should see a doctor. You should also see a doctor if your urine is red, blue, or green.
As mentioned above, the color of your urine is primarily determined by how much water you’ve had to drink. When you drink lots of water, your urine can become so light that it appears to be almost clear. The less water you drink, the darker your urine will become.
Diet, vitamins, and minerals
Diet can also be a factor. The color of all-natural foods (such as berries and beets) can interact with pigment to create a different color. Heavily processed foods can contain high amounts of food dye. This dye will interact with the pigment as well.
B vitamins, such as riboflavin (B-2) and cobalamin (B-12), are also known for causing fluorescent yellow-green urine. If you take supplements or multivitamins, they may be the source of your brightly colored urine.
Meal replacement shakes, which are also fortified with B vitamins, can have the same effect.
Excess beta carotene or vitamin C may lead to urine that’s dark yellow or orange. Beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body, is found in yellow and orange foods such as carrots and sweet potatoes.
In addition to citrus fruits, vitamin C is also found in foods such as tomatoes, strawberries, and broccoli.
If you don’t properly hydrate after a workout, it can also lead to dehydration and darker urine. Extreme exercise without proper hydration can cause a serious condition that leads to muscle breakdown.
This can cause severe muscle pain along with cola- or tea-colored urine. If this occurs, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Over-the-counter and prescription medications can also make your urine bright or more vivid. This includes antibiotics, laxatives, and certain chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer.
For example, the medication phenazopyridine (Pyridium) is commonly used to treat the discomfort associated with urinary tract infections (UTIs). A common side effect of its usage is orange-colored urine.
Other medications such as rifampin may also harmlessly stain the urine a bright orange color.
Changes in the color of your urine could be a sign of troubles with your kidney, liver, or bladder function. If your urine becomes cloudy or develops a strong odor, you may have a bladder or kidney infection.
This is especially true if you’re having any symptoms of these infections, such as pain when urinating, fever, vomiting, or back pain.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that bright-yellow urine may be an early symptom of pregnancy. However, there are no studies to support these claims.
Your age and your sex may raise your risk for conditions that can affect the color of your urine. For example, tumors in the kidney or bladder are common in older adults. Urinary tract bleeding is commonly associated with problems of the kidney or bladder.
More serious conditions such as cancer can also cause bleeding and pink or red urine. Tell your doctor right away if you notice blood in your urine so that they can determine the cause.
Urinary tract bleeding is much less common in children, though certain rare disorders may cause blood in the urine. These disorders include Henoch-Schonlein purpura, hemolytic uremic syndrome, and Wilms’ tumor
As with adults, any urinary tract bleeding in children is considered abnormal and should prompt immediate medical attention.
If you notice any abnormalities in your urine color, you should see your doctor. After scheduling your appointment, jot down any details that can help your doctor determine whether there’s a problem.
Consider the following:
- When did you first start to notice the change?
- What has your diet consisted of lately?
- What medications or supplements have you taken?
- Have you engaged in any strenuous physical activity?
- Have there been any changes to your sleep patterns?
- Have your bowel movements been normal?
- Do you have a rash anywhere on your body?
- Have you had any headaches lately?
- Have you had any problems with your vision?
- Have you had any unexplained weight loss?
- Do you have a history of smoking?
- Has there been any change in your urinary habits?
When you meet with your doctor, they’ll discuss your health history and perform a physical exam. Depending on their assessment, your doctor may request a urinalysis or blood test.
A urinalysis can check for red blood cells, assess your urine protein levels, and determine what excreted materials are present. Your urine may also be checked for infection-causing bacteria. If there are signs of infection, a urine culture may be ordered.
A blood test can measure kidney function and the level of liver enzymes. These results may give a clue as to the cause of the color changes in your urine.
Treatment options can vary, depending upon what your doctor discovers from your tests. If your doctor discovers that your dark-yellow urine color is due to dehydration, they will recommend that you add more fluids to your diet.
The color of your urine should return to its normal yellow color within days. If an underlying medical condition is found, your doctor will pursue treatment for that condition.
If your urine takes on a dark-yellow color, it may be your body’s way of telling you to drink more water. This change in color may be caused by dehydration, so drink up.
Whether you’re sitting at the office, working out at the gym, or laying out at the beach, it’s important to stay hydrated.
If you’re taking any medication that causes this discoloration, it’s likely harmless. You should continue taking the medication under the supervision of your doctor, unless you’re otherwise advised.