7 Causes of Cloudiness in Urine

Urologists weigh in on the most common causes and when to see a healthcare provider.

Here's a good habit to get into: Take a look at the color of your urine before you flush it. Ultimately, while everyone's urine looks different, it should be on the yellow spectrum—ideally on the paler yellow side, and pretty translucent (that means your kidneys are working properly).

But what if your urine looks kind of cloudy, or a little more opaque than usual? Here's what to know about cloudy pee if you're experiencing it, and when you should talk to a healthcare provider.

cloudy pee
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Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are usually responsible for cloudy urine, Ketan Badani, MD, a urologist at Mount Sinai in New York, told Health. "Cloudy urine can be a few things, but the most common [is] urinary tract infection," said Dr. Badani.

If you have a UTI, you might notice other symptoms such as burning or pain when you urinate or needing to pee more frequently than normal. The good news is your healthcare provider can diagnose a UTI after obtaining a urine sample, and these infections are usually treated with antibiotics, per MedlinePlus, a resource from the US National Library of Medicine.

Dehydration

Not drinking enough water can also cause cloudy urine, Sandip Vasavada, MD, a urologist at Cleveland Clinic, told Health. Another clue that might help you realize you're simply not drinking enough water is the color of your urine: If you are dehydrated, your pee might be a little darker than it usually is. The good news, of course, is that you can solve this problem by prioritizing your water intake.

Diet

The same way that certain foods can affect the way your urine smells, your diet can cause your urine to look cloudy or milky, said Dr. Vasavada. In particular, certain vegetables can have this effect, though which vegetables, specifically, can cause your urine to be cloudy hasn't been well documented, said Dr. Vasavada.

Kidney Stones

Kidney problems are important to rule out if you suddenly start noticing cloudy urine, said Dr. Badani. Smelly urine and cloudy urine are both signs of kidney stones, which, as the name suggests, form in the kidneys but are passed via urinating.

Other symptoms of kidney stones include back pain or pain in your side, chills, fever, blood in the urine, burning when you urinate, and vomiting, per MedlinePlus.

Chlamydia

If you notice your pee looks cloudy and you haven't been practicing safe sex, a sexually transmitted infection (STI) could be to blame. Specifically, chlamydia can cause cloudy urine, according to Stanford Health Care.

Aside from cloudy urine, chlamydia can also cause abnormal discharge, pain while urinating, genital itching, fever, and other symptoms.

Inflammation

Inflammation can cause your urine to look cloudy, said Dr. Badani. Specifically, cystitis, which is the technical term for inflammation of the bladder, can cause your urine to look cloudy, per the National Health Service of the UK.

Other symptoms of cystitis include dark or smelly urine, burning or pain when you pee, and having to pee more frequently than normal.

Mucus

If there's mucus in your urine, it could make your pee look cloudy, according to MedlinePlus, which states that having some mucus in your urine is normal. However, excess amounts could point to an underlying health condition.

Providing a urine sample can help your healthcare provider determine if the amount of mucus in your urine is normal. If it isn't, it could be a sign of one of the aforementioned health conditions, including UTIs and kidney stones. But mucus in the urine can also be a sign of other conditions, including bladder cancer and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), per MedlinePlus.

What Should You Do if You Start Noticing Cloudiness in Your Urine?

Cloudy urine by itself isn't necessarily worrisome, said Dr. Vasavada. (Remember: It can be caused by dehydration.) However, if you start noticing other symptoms on top of cloudy urine—such as burning, going to the bathroom frequently, and pain—you might have a UTI, which, again, is the number one cause of cloudy urine. If you suspect you have a UTI, your healthcare provider can diagnose you after you provide a urine sample (for urinalysis and urine culture), and taking a round of antibiotics should knock it out.

If other, more serious symptoms arise, such as blood in your urine, your healthcare provider will likely perform a urinalysis on your urine sample as per MedlinePlus. Most causes of blood in your urine are not serious. However, sometimes red or white blood cells in your urine can mean you have a medical condition that needs treatment, such as kidney disease, urinary tract infection, or liver disease.

Summary

The takeaway: Cloudy- or milky-looking urine isn't always bad, nor do you need to rush to the ER if you notice it. But if you consistently see cloudy urine accompanied by other worrisome symptoms, it wouldn't hurt to schedule a medical appointment to confirm that you aren't suffering from a UTI or something else.

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