What is oily urine?

Some health conditions can cause changes to your urine, including making it look oily. For example, you might notice what look like drops of oil floating on top of the toilet water after urinating. Several things can cause this, from certain vitamins to underlying conditions that need treatment.

Keep reading to learn about the different causes and when you should follow up with your doctor.

Chyluria

Chyluria is a condition that happens when lymphatic fluid from the intestines leaks into your kidneys. In addition to an oily appearance, your urine might also have a milky white color. This is due to the presence of fat and protein in lymph fluid.

Other symptoms of chyluria include:

This condition is caused by an underlying condition, such as:

If you have oily urine that also has a whitish color, it’s best to make an appointment with your doctor. They’ll likely do a urine test and take an X-ray, MRI scan, or CT scan of your kidneys to figure out what’s causing it and come up with a treatment plan.

Ketosis

When a person experiences ketosis, they’ll have ketones in their urine. Ketosis occurs when your body begins to burn fat instead of glucose for energy. Ketones are a byproduct of this process and can be detected in your breath, blood, or urine when your body’s in ketosis.

Having a high number of ketones in your urine can make it look oily. You might also notice that your breath smells different. Some people report a fruity smell.

Many things can cause ketosis, including:

Your doctor can determine whether you’re in ketosis through a simple urine test. Keep in mind that ketosis isn’t necessarily a health problem. In fact, some people intentionally put their bodies into ketosis when following the popular ketogenic diet.

However, it can lead to complications for some people, especially those with diabetes. If you have diabetes, ketosis may be a precursor to ketoacidosis, a serious condition that requires immediate treatment. Contact your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms in addition to oily urine:

Otherwise, you can usually treat ketosis by changing up your diet and exercise habits.

Dehydration

When your body is losing more fluid than you can take in, you become dehydrated. With less water moving through your body, your urine becomes more concentrated. This can make other substances in your urine, such as fats, more visible.

In addition to oily urine, you might also have:

  • dark, concentrated urine
  • lethargy
  • headache
  • dizzy spells
  • dry mouth
  • urinating less often
  • confusion

Many things can cause dehydration, from not drinking enough water to underlying conditions that cause diarrhea or vomiting. Some conditions, such as strep throat, also make it hard to swallow fluids.

If you’re symptoms don’t improve after drinking water, seek medical attention. You may need intravenous (IV) fluids to help your body rehydrate.

Pregnancy

There are a few scenarios during pregnancy that can cause changes to your urine. If you’re experiencing severe morning sickness with excessive vomiting, you may become dehydrated. The high concentration of your urine could cause a difference in its consistency or appearance.

Ketones in urine during pregnancy can also be a sign of gestational diabetes. In addition, if morning sickness prevents you from eating enough, you may experience ketosis.

While oily urine during pregnancy isn’t always cause for concern, it’s best to call your doctor to be sure.

Water-soluble vitamins

Water-soluble vitamins, such B-complex vitamins and vitamin C, are those that aren’t stored in body tissues (like fat-soluble vitamins). If you consume more water-soluble vitamins than your body needs in a day, the extras are expelled in your urine.

These extra vitamins can affect both the color and overall appearance of your urine. If you take water-soluble vitamins, try not taking them for a few days to see if your urine’s appearance changes.

Warning signs

Some conditions that cause oily urine can indicate a medical emergency. Contact your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately if you experience the following severe symptoms:

  • painful urination
  • blood in the urine
  • high fever
  • severe headache
  • ongoing nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • lethargy and extreme sleepiness
  • abdominal pain
  • extreme thirst or dry mouth
  • dark, concentrated urine
  • dizzy spells
  • urinating less often
  • confusion

The bottom line

If you notice that you’re urine looks oily, it’s best to make an appointment with your doctor. While it could be a sign of something harmless, like taking too many vitamins, it can also signal an underlying condition that needs treatment. This is especially important if you have diabetes, as oily urine can be a symptom of a serious complication.