Urine should typically be clear and not murky, though the color can vary. Sediment, or particles, in your urine can make it look cloudy. In many cases, sediment can only be detected by a clinical test such as a urinalysis.

Sediment is often composed of:

  • microscopic particles
  • various kinds of cells
  • debris from your urinary tract
  • mucus

What’s considered normal sediment?

Healthy urine can contain small amounts of invisible sediment that includes:

  • small amounts of tissue
  • protein
  • blood and skin cells
  • amorphous crystals

Urine sediment becomes a concern if there’s:

  • too much sediment
  • high levels of certain kinds of cells
  • certain kinds of crystals

What causes urine sediment?

There are a number of conditions that can cause sediment in your urine. It’s important to find out the underlying cause so it can be treated appropriately.

Acute cystitis

Acute cystitis, sometimes referred to as a urinary tract infection (UTI), is a sudden inflammation of your bladder. This condition is often caused by a bacterial infection and can cause cloudy urine or blood and other debris in your urine.

You’re more likely to experience acute cystitis if you have:

  • kidney stones
  • improper hygiene
  • urinary tract abnormalities
  • diabetes
  • a catheter
  • sexual activity

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause sediment in your urine due to kidney problems that may be a complication of the condition. It can also cause glucose to show up in your urine as sediment.

Diabetes affects how you metabolize fat. Ketones, which are a byproduct of this process, can be released in your urine and appear as sediment.

Hematuria

Hematuria is a common cause of sediment in your urine. The term itself simply means having blood in your urine. There are various causes of hematuria, including:

  • infection
  • medications
  • kidney disease
  • bodily trauma
  • kidney stones
  • repeated catheter use

Urine may appear pink, brown, or red, or have spots of blood. Sometimes you can’t see the blood with your naked eye and it can only be picked up by a lab test.

Catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI)

A CAUTI, or a UTI associated with a catheter, is common if you have an indwelling catheter inside your urethra.

Symptoms are similar to a general UTI and include:

  • bloody or cloudy urine
  • gritty particles or mucus in your urine
  • urine with a strong odor
  • pain in your lower back
  • chills and fever

There are multiple ways bacteria or fungi can get into your urinary tract and cause a CAUTI:

  • via your catheter
  • upon insertion
  • if your drainage bag isn’t emptied properly
  • if your catheter isn’t cleaned often or correctly
  • if bacteria from feces gets on your catheter

Bladder stones

Bladder stones can occur when minerals in urine become crystalized, creating “stones,” or masses. This usually occurs when your bladder doesn’t empty completely and the remaining urine develops crystals. Small stones might pass without any intervention, but larger bladder stones might require surgery.

Symptoms can include:

  • lower abdominal pain
  • trouble urinating
  • blood in your urine
  • cloudy urine

Dehydration

Dehydration can cause a whole host of problems, including urinary complications. Dehydration occurs when you’re losing more fluid than you’re taking in. This often occurs from sweating and simultaneously not drinking enough, especially with active individuals and athletes. It can also happen because of a fever, excess urination, or illness.

Pregnant women and those in extreme temperatures need to make especially sure to stay hydrated by drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water daily.

Symptoms can include:

  • decreased urine output, dark urine, or cloudy urine
  • headache
  • excessive thirst
  • drowsiness
  • constipation
  • lightheadedness

Yeast infection

A yeast infection, particularly of the vagina, is caused by an overgrowth of Candida, a fungus. Another name for the infection is candidiasis. It can cause:

  • itching and burning
  • vaginal discharge
  • pain with urination
  • particles in your urine

Yeast is often found in the vaginal area, but if there’s too much, it can cause an infection.

Pregnancy

Cloudy urine during pregnancy can sometimes be a result of hormones. It could also be a sign of dehydration or a UTI.

When pregnant, it’s important not to let a UTI go untreated. If you notice cloudy urine or sediment in your urine, stay hydrated, drink fluids, and call your doctor.

They might want to take a urine sample just to see what’s going on and prescribe appropriate treatment if necessary.

STIs

Various sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause sediment in your urine. Symptoms of STIs can be diverse, but can include:

  • cloudy urine
  • burning or itching in your genital area
  • abnormal discharge
  • pain with urination
  • pelvic pain

If you think you might have an STI, see your doctor. They’ll do an exam and take samples or cultures to send out for further testing. Many STIs are treatable and can be taken care of with medication.

Prostatitis

The prostate gland is below the bladder and produces semen. When this becomes swollen or inflamed, it’s called prostatitis. It’s usually caused by bacteria from urine leaking into the prostate but can also be caused by nerve damage to your lower urinary tract. Many times, no main cause can be found.

Symptoms can include:

  • pain or burning with urination
  • cloudy or bloody urine
  • pain in your lower abdomen, groin, or back
  • difficulty urinating
  • urinary urgency
  • painful ejaculation

When to see a doctor

If you have any pain with urination or see any blood or cloudiness in your urine, call your doctor. If you’re pregnant and you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, call your obstetrician and let them know.

If you have a catheter or if you’re caring for someone with a catheter and you notice a fever over 100°F (38°C), call the doctor as this can be a sign of infection. They might want to do an exam or urinalysis test.

Your urine should be clear and free of any visible debris, so if you see any sediment or cloudiness, especially with any of the accompanying symptoms mentioned, call your doctor.