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Urine - abnormal color

Definition

Urine of an abnormal color appears different from the usual straw-yellow color. Abnormally-colored urine may be cloudy, dark, or blood-tinged.

See also: Urine, bloody or dark

Alternative Names

Discoloration of urine

Considerations

Any changes in urine color, or the presence of an abnormal urine color that cannot be linked to the consumption of a food or drug, should be reported to your health care provider. This is particularly important if it happens for longer than a day or two, or you have repeated episodes.

Some dyes used in food may be excreted in the urine, and a wide variety of drugs can discolor the urine.

Cloudy or murky urine is a sign of a urinary tract infection, which may also have an offensive smell. Murky urine may also be caused by the presence of bacteria, mucus, white blood cells or red blood cells, epithelial cells, fat, or phosphates.

Dark brown or clear urine is characteristic of a liver disorder such as acute viral hepatitis or cirrhosis.

Pink, red, or smoky brown urine can be a side effect of a medication or may be caused by the recent consumption of beets, blackberries or certain food colorings. It is also characteristic of a urinary tract disorder in which bleeding occurs such as cystitis, enlarged prostate, kidney or bladder tumor, tuberculosis, bladder stones, kidney infection, Wilms' tumor (in children), or hypernephroma. Hemolytic anemia and porphyria can also cause urine to take on these colors. It may also occur after trauma to the kidneys or urinary tract.

Dark yellow or orange urine can be caused by recent use of laxatives or consumption of B complex vitamins or carotene. Orange urine is often caused by phenazopyridine (used in the treatment of urinary tract infections), rifampin, and warfarin.

Green or blue urine is due to the effect of artificial color in food or drug. It may also result from medications including amitriptyline, indomethacin, and doxorubicin.

Common Causes

  • Food (beets, blackberries or other naturally red foods)
  • Food dyes
  • Certain drugs
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Liver diseases such as acute viral hepatitis or cirrhosis

Other diseases (not presented in order of likelihood -- some are extremely unlikely):

Call your health care provider if

Make an appointment with your health care provider if you have:

  • Clear, dark-brown urine, particularly if accompanied by pale stools and yellow skin and eyes
  • Pink, red, or smoky-brown urine, and the color change was not expected (due to a food or medication)
  • Abnormal urine color that persists without explanation
  • Blood in your urine, even on one occasion

What to expect at your health care provider's office

The health care provider will perform a physical exam, which may include a rectal or pelvic exam. You will be asked questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:

  • Time pattern
    • When did this begin?
    • Did this begin suddenly?
  • Quality
    • What color is the urine?
    • Is it consistently the same color throughout the day?
    • Do you have increased or decreased urination?
    • Can you see blood in the urine?
    • Is there an unusual odor?
  • Aggravating factors
    • What medicines do you take?
    • Have you eaten foods such as colored candy, beets, berries, or rhubarb?
  • Other
    • What other symptoms do you have? (For example,pain when urinating, abdominal pain,back pain or fever)
    • Are you drinking fewer fluids or have decreased thirst?
    • Do you have a decreased appetite?
    • Have you had any previous urinary problems or kidney problems?
    • Do you have any allergies?

Tests that may be done include:

References

Gerber GS, Brendler CB. Evaluation of the urologic patient: History, physical examination, and the urinalysis. In: Wein AJ, ed. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 3.


Review Date: 9/30/2009
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Scott Miller, MD, Urologist in private practice in Atlanta, Georgia. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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