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 glancing into your toilet bowl after peeing, it's time to start. The color and cloudiness of 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 color 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 urine color chart will help you determine if your pee is normal—and if it's not, what the culprit might be.

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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.

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 health 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. B complex vitamins and carotene can also lead to dark yellow or orange urine.

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 might be needed.

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 (such as cascara or senna), and other medications (such as methocarbamol and methyldopa) can also cause urine to appear brown, added Dr. Novakovic.

In addition, clear but dark brown urine could point to rhabdomyolysis, a condition involving the breakdown of muscle tissue, or a liver disorder like cirrhosis or acute viral hepatitis.

People with a history of melanoma should 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? Foods like these can change the color of your urine (and your stool) and give it a pink or reddish tint. Medications 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, injury or disorder of the urinary tract, tumor, or other condition.

You should always see a healthcare provider for blood in the urine. 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 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."

Blue or green urine could also be the result of bilirubin or urinary tract infections. Rarely, it can be a sign of familial hypercalcemia, also known as blue diaper syndrome, an uncommon genetic disorder.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

In some cases, an abnormal urine color could be a cause for concern. Contact a healthcare provider if your urine is:

  • Bloody (even if it only happens once)
  • Clear and dark brown
  • Persistently abnormal in color and you can't explain why
  • Pink, red, or smoky brown (and this is not the result of a food or drug)

A Quick Review

Pay attention to the color of your urine. Urine color may not tell the whole story, and a change in color can have a harmless culprit such as food dye. However, abnormal urine color can sometimes hint at dehydration and certain health conditions, and it's best to see a healthcare provider to rule out conditions or issues.

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6 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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