Why Is My Urine Foamy?

Medically reviewed by Graham Rogers, MD on June 27, 2016Written by Stephanie Watson on June 27, 2016

Overview

Urine is normally pale yellow to dark amber in color, and is flat. A variety of factors, from diet to drugs and disease, can cause changes in the color and texture of your urine.

If your urine looks foamy, it could be because your bladder is full and the urine is hitting the toilet fast enough to stir up the water. A condition you need to see your doctor about could also cause foamy urine.

Find out what makes your urine foam up and what you should do about it if it happens.

What other symptoms can occur with foamy urine?

Urine can foam up briefly every once in a while. This is usually due to the speed of urine flow. Foamy urine is more likely to be a sign of disease if it happens often or it gets worse over time.

If your urine is foamy, you should also look for other symptoms. These additional symptoms could be clues that a medical condition is causing the problem:

Men may have dry orgasms or release little to no semen during orgasm. They may also have infertility or trouble getting a female partner pregnant.

What are the causes of foamy urine?

The most obvious cause of foamy urine is the speed of urination. Just as water foams up when it comes out of the tap quickly, urine will foam if it hits the toilet quickly. The foam should also clear up quickly.

Sometimes, urine can also foam up when it’s concentrated. Your urine will be more concentrated if you haven’t had much water to drink and you’re dehydrated.

Foamy urine can also indicate that you have too much of a protein, such as albumin, in your urine. The protein in your urine reacts with the air to create foam. Normally, your kidneys filter extra water and waste products out of your blood into your urine. Protein and other important substances that your body needs are too big to fit through the kidneys’ filters, so they stay in your bloodstream.

When your kidneys are damaged, they don’t filter as well as they should. Damaged kidneys can allow too much protein leak into your urine. This is called proteinuria. It’s a sign of chronic kidney disease or the late stage of kidney damage, called end-stage renal disease.

A less common cause of foamy urine is retrograde ejaculation, which is a condition that happens in men when semen backs up into the bladder instead of being released from the penis. Taking the medicine phenazopyridine (Pyridium, Azo-Standard, Uristat, AZO) is another less common cause of foamy urine. People take this medication to treat urinary tract infections.

What are the risk factors?

A full bladder can make your urine stream faster and more forceful, which can cause foam. The urine can also get foamy if it’s more concentrated, which can occur due to dehydration or pregnancy. Sometimes, the problem is your toilet. Some toilet cleaning chemicals will make your urine look foamy. If this is the cause, the foam should stop as soon as you flush the cleaner out of the toilet.

Protein in the urine is another cause, and it’s usually due to kidney disease. You’re more likely to get kidney disease if you have:

The causes of retrograde ejaculation include:

Contact your doctor if you suspect you have kidney disease or retrograde ejaculation, or if your urine continues to look foamy.

How is the cause of foamy urine diagnosed?

Your doctor will likely take a urine sample to test protein levels in your urine. One urine test compares albumin levels to levels of creatinine, which is a substance produced when muscles break down. This is called the urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio (UACR). It will show how well your kidneys are filtering your blood. If your UACR is higher than 30 mg/g, you might have kidney disease. Your doctor will do other tests to check how well your kidneys are working.

Learn more: Protein urine test »

If retrograde ejaculation is a suspected cause for your foamy urine, your doctor will check for sperm in your urine.

How are the causes of foamy urine treated?

Treatment for foamy urine depends on the cause of the foamy urine. If your urine is concentrated, drinking more water and other fluids will relieve dehydration and stop the foaming.

Treatment for diabetes and high blood pressure

When foamy urine is caused by kidney damage, you’ll need to treat the cause. Often, diabetes and high blood pressure cause kidney disease. You can slow down the progression of kidney damage by managing these conditions well.

Your doctor will recommend that you eat a balanced diet and get plenty of exercise to help treat diabetes. You’ll have to test your blood sugar often to make sure it’s staying within a healthy range. High blood sugar can damage your kidneys. You might also need to take medicine that lowers your blood sugar.

For high blood pressure, you’ll also want to watch your diet and stay active. Limiting the salt and protein in your diet can both bring down blood pressure and prevent your kidneys from having to work so hard. Your doctor can prescribe beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, diuretics, or other drugs that lower blood pressure. Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers are two drugs that lower blood pressure and protect the kidneys from additional damage.

Treatment for retrograde ejaculation

Retrograde ejaculation doesn’t need to be treated unless you want to father a child or the dry orgasms bother you. Your doctor can treat this condition with drugs that are approved for use for other conditions but that also close the bladder neck so that semen can’t get inside your bladder. Off-label use of the following drugs can help treat this condition:

Off-label drug use: What you need to know »

What is the outlook?

Foamy urine may not be a problem if it happens every once in a while. If it continues, it could be a sign that you have kidney damage. Usually, this symptom appears late in kidney disease, so immediate treatment is important. Less often, it could be a sign of retrograde ejaculation if you’re a male, or it could be an effect of a drug you’re taking. Treating the condition or stopping the drug that’s causing it should stop the foaming.

Most of the time, foamy urine is nothing to worry about. Often, you can relieve foamy urine simply by drinking more water.

See your doctor if:

  • the foamy urine doesn’t go away within a few days
  • you also have symptoms like swelling, nausea, vomiting, appetite loss, and fatigue
  • your urine is also cloudy or bloody
  • if you’re a male, your orgasms produce little to no fluid or you’ve been trying to get your female partner pregnant for a year or longer without success
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