By Everyday Health Guest Columnist
By Troy Sukkarieh, MD, Special to Everyday Health
Troy Sukkarieh, MD is a board-certified urologic surgeon with fellowship training in robotics and advanced laparoscopic surgery. He is on staff at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold, New Jersey, where he also maintains a private practice.
There is no perfect urine. Your quality and quantity of your urine can change based on your health and lifestyle. However, it’s important to know what is normal for you. This way, you can relay any serious or bothersome changes to your doctor.
Urine has been a useful diagnostic tool since the beginning of medicine. The color, density, smell, and frequency of your urine can reveal useful information about your health. It can also tell if you are properly hydrated, taking medication or vitamins, or have an infection.
What Color Is the Right Color for Urine?
If you don’t see any color, you might be drinking too much water or coffee. Deeper shades of yellow and amber can indicate that you are dehydrated. The color of urine can range from completely clear to gold, and can include unusual colors like red and blue.
Here are some clues about what different urine colors may indicate:
1 . Blue-green urine may be the result of certain medications such as laxatives, chemotherapy drugs, or vitamins. If you aren’t taking any of these meds, and you continue to see this color for more than a few days, call your doctor to discuss.
2 . Bright yellow or orange urine can indicate you’ve consumed a lot of vitamin C, carrots, beets, or other foods in the orange family. Some medications can turn your urine this color as well.
3 . Dark orange or brown urine is cause for concern. This may mean you have bile in your urine or a problem with your liver.
4 . Pink or red urine can simply indicate you’ve eaten red-tinted food. On a more serious note, this can also be a sign of blood in your urine. Bloody urine may indicate internal injury, kidney issues, or cancer.
5 . Cloudy urine has been found to suggest the presence of phosphates, which can be a precursor to kidney stones. Cloudiness can also indicate an infection. If cloudiness worsens and you experience burning or urgency, make sure to see a doctor.
You May Be Able to Smell a Health Issue
Most of the time, if you are healthy and well hydrated, your urine will not have a strong smell. But these odors may spell trouble:
1 . Foul smell. The bacteria that cause urinary tract infections (UTIs) can produce a foul smell. Symptoms of a UTI include burning during urination, fever, chills, and back pain. If you have a urinary infection, you will need to be prescribed an antibiotic.
2 . Sweet smell. Sweet-smelling urine may be a sign of diabetes or liver disease.
3 . Musty smell. Certain metabolic disorders may cause musty-smelling urine as well.
4 . Keep in mind that consuming certain foods and beverages — coffee and asparagus in particular — can give urine a stronger smell as well, which is completely normal.
You Have to Go NOW, or You Have to Go Often
Most people take bathroom breaks about six to eight times a day, depending on how much they drink. If you’re constantly feeling the urge to go (without drinking any extra fluids), the frequency of urination can indicate an overactive bladder, urinary tract infection, interstitial cystitis (painful urination without an infection), or diabetes.
Urgency means you need to go right away, have difficulty holding it in, and wake up several times during the night to use the bathroom. For men, urgency and frequency, could be symptoms of a bladder problem or, more commonly, an enlarged prostate — known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The prostate gland surrounds the urethra, through which urine leaves the body. As the gland grows bigger, it can press on the urethra and cause a variety of changes in urination.
Some men assume drinking less water will lessen urgency and frequency, but dehydration can cause urinary issues as well. BPH can also cause incomplete emptying of your bladder, so you still feel like you have to go again minutes later. This isn’t a medical condition to be ignored, and it typically won’t go away on its own.
Increased frequency and urgency in women may be a symptom of an infection, kidney stones, or a more serious condition.
The Importance of a Tried-and-True Urinalysis
You can learn a lot about what’s going on inside your body by looking at your urine. For example, blood in your urine can indicate a significant health issue, and it isn’t always visible to the human eye. You may need a urinalysis to find it. The same can be said for the volume of sugar in your urine, which could indicate an increased risk of diabetes.
Only a proper urinalysis, one taken at your doctor’s office or medical lab, can accurately diagnose potential medical issues like these.
We’re all tempted to roll our eyes when the doctor hands us a plastic cup, requesting a urine sample. But that sample can provide a number of important insights regarding your health. It’s one of the easiest — and most valuable — tests you can undergo every year, regardless of your age or medical history.
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