What Your Urine Color Says About Your Health

Medications, foods, and certain health conditions can all change the color of your urine.

If you're not taking a peek into your toilet bowl after peeing, it's time to start. Based on its color and cloudiness, your urine can clue you in on certain aspects of your health. You've probably heard, for example, that the color of your pee can reflect your hydration level. Urine can also reveal other information about your health.

"Urine color can vary on a daily basis," Kristian Novakovic, MD, a urologist with NorthShore University HealthSystem in Chicago, told Health. "Generally, it is not a cause for alarm, [but] it is never wrong to consult your physician if you are concerned."

Here, this handy pee color chart will help you determine if your urine is normal—and if it's not, what the culprit might be.

Getty Images

What Color Should Urine Be?

While there isn't one exact "normal" urine color, your pee should fall somewhere on the yellow spectrum, according to Michael Palese, MD, site chair in the department of urology at Mount Sinai Beth Israel. Dr. Palese explained that, as a general rule, the more water you drink, the more transparent your urine will look. "If urine [looks] paler or whiter, it means the water that's being filtered through your kidneys is more diluted," Dr. Palese told Health. "If it doesn't, that could be an indication that something else is going on."

If you've been on top of your water intake lately and are well hydrated, your pee might be quite clear, with not much color to it; pale straw or transparent yellow urine can also indicate that you're well hydrated. And while it's rare to drink too much water, you can probably cut back a bit if your urine is completely transparent (basically, if it looks like water).

Dark-Colored Yellow Urine

Urine that is amber- or honey-colored, or even a dark orange, might indicate that your body isn't getting enough water. "If you're dehydrated and you are holding onto more of the actual water itself, the urine will become darker and darker," said Dr. Palese.

In addition to darker urine, other signs of dehydration can include fatigue, chills, headache, bad breath, sugar cravings, or muscle cramps. First, try upping your water intake. Dr. Novakovic recommends 1.5 to 2 liters of water daily in addition to other fluids. If that doesn't help, schedule an appointment with your healthcare professional to rule out other issues.

Some medications can also give your urine a darker yellow or orange hue, including phenazopyridine, which is often prescribed to treat urinary tract infection (UTI) pain, and sulfasalazine, used to treat ulcerative colitis.

Dark Brown Urine

Does your urine resemble tea, brown ale, or cola? Certain foods, including rhubarb, fava beans, and aloe, could be to blame, as all can tint your pee a darker color. Dark brown urine might also represent severe dehydration, in which case IV fluids and medical treatment would probably be needed, according to the National Library of Medicine's resource, MedlinePlus.

If you've recently undergone a urological procedure, brown pee may be the result of blood slowly dissolving into the urine, said Dr. Novakovic. Some antibiotics (such as metronidazole and nitrofurantoin), laxatives (cascara or senna), and other medications (methocarbamol and methyldopa) can also cause urine to appear brown, added Dr. Novakovic.

Dark brown urine could be an indication of something more serious, though. "If someone has poor liver function, that can manifest itself in dark yellow or brown urine," said Dr. Palese.

Those with a history of melanoma should also keep an eye out for this shade. "If [melanoma patients'] urine turns brown, it may indicate the presence of melanin, which is associated with progression of the cancer," explained Dr. Novakovic.

Whether you have a history of melanoma or not, if you're noticing dark brown urine regularly, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider, said Dr. Palese. "In general, it doesn't mean that something is absolutely wrong, but it can be."

Red or Pink Urine

Have you been eating more blueberries, beets, or rhubarb lately? These foods can change the color of your urine (and your stool) and give it a pink or reddish tint. Medications such as phenazopyridine or the antibiotic rifampin could also be to blame.

If you haven't been filling your plate with red- or purple-hued foods, you might be seeing blood in your pee. Make an appointment with your healthcare provider to rule out a UTI, kidney stone, or other condition.

"Blood in urine should always be worked up and definitely [requires] seeing a physician," said Dr. Palese. A workup for blood in urine can include urine studies (lab tests), pictures (like an ultrasound or CT scan), and cystoscopy (a procedure where a camera looks at the bladder).

Dr. Palese also recommended that anyone with a medical condition affecting the urinary tract—such as recurrent UTIs or a history of kidney stones—closely monitor their urine for the presence of blood.

Blue or Green Urine

Ironically, the scariest-looking urine color probably has an innocuous explanation. A dye in something you ate or certain medications—like antidepressants and anti-inflammatory drugs—can sometimes cause your pee to appear blue or green. "It's usually medications," said Dr. Palese. "It's unlikely that [blue urine] is anything more than that."

Rarely, blue or green urine can be a sign of familial hypercalcemia, also known as blue diaper syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD).

While urine color may not tell the whole story, it can hint at certain health conditions, including dehydration. So, make paying attention to the color of your urine and how often you're peeing each day a normal part of your daily health habits.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles