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 more concentrated determines how the pigment will appear. 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. This norm should fall on the yellow spectrum, though. 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, you should see a doctor. This includes urine that’s cloudy or brown. You should also see a doctor if your urine is red, blue, or green.
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 light. It may even appear 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. All-natural foods, such as berries and beets, and heavily processed foods can contain high amounts of food dye. This dye can interact with pigment to create a different color. 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 is 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, 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 a sign of early 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 they can determine the cause.
Up to 60 percent of women will experience a UTI at least once in their lives. This infection may be accompanied by urinary tract bleeding, which can change the color of urine. Men may also experience urinary blood as a result of an enlarged prostate gland.
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, you should jot down any details that can help your doctor determine whether there’s a problem. Consider the following:
- when you first started noticing the change
- what your diet has consisted of lately
- what medications or supplements you’ve taken
- if you’ve engaged in any strenuous physical activity
- if there have been any changes to your sleep patterns
- if your bowel movements have been normal
- if you have a rash anywhere on your body
- if you’ve had any headaches lately
- if you’ve had any problems with your vision
- if you’ve had any unexplained weight loss
- if you have a history of smoking
- if there is any change in your urinary habits
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.