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What your urine colour says about your health

Human urine has been a use­ful tool of diag­no­sis since the ear­li­est days of med­i­cine. The colour, den­si­ty and smell of urine can reveal much about the state of our health. 

Most peo­ple don’t give much thought to their urine before flush­ing it out of sight. But the basic details of your urine colour, smell, and how often you uri­nate can give you a hint about what is going on inside your body.

Urine is your body’s liq­uid waste, main­ly made of water, salt, and chem­i­cals called urea and uric acid. The kid­neys make it when they fil­ter tox­ins and oth­er bad stuff from the blood. A bunch of things in the body, like med­ica­tions, foods, and ill­ness­es, can affect how urine turns out.

If every­thing is nor­mal and healthy, the colour should be a pale yel­low to gold. That hue comes from a pig­ment the body makes called urochrome. The shade, light or dark, also changes. If it has no colour at all, that may be because you have been drink­ing a lot of water or tak­ing a drug called a diuret­ic, which helps your body get rid of flu­id. Very dark hon­ey or brown urine could be a sign that you’re dehy­drat­ed and need to get more flu­ids right away. It may also be a warn­ing sign of liv­er prob­lems.

Accord­ing to a med­ical doc­tor, Lekan Sun­day, urine is a very use­ful tool in diag­no­sis. He said: “We use it to deter­mine the state of health of patients to some extent. Not only can we deter­mine pro­tein, sug­ar, yeast, and bac­te­ria lev­els, but we also can also use it to detect severe issues, like can­cer­ous tumors and blad­der infec­tions, just by notic­ing odd­i­ties in your urine.

But to be able to spot defi­cien­cies, it’s cru­cial to first know what nor­mal, healthy urine looks like. Gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, if your urine is trans­par­ent and has a pale yel­low, yel­low or dark yel­low colour, you’re per­fect­ly healthy. A good rule of thumb is the dark­er your urine, the more water you need to drink. And if your urine is any oth­er colour besides a var­i­ous shade of yel­low, some­thing may be wrong.

When you’re check­ing out the bowl, it’s also good to keep in mind that there are exter­nal fac­tors that can influ­ence the colour of your urine, such as med­ica­tions, chemother­a­py drugs, lax­a­tives, and dyes found in cer­tain foods. We still encour­age you to bring any abnor­mal­i­ties to the atten­tion of your health care provider, but don’t pan­ic if you see blue/green urine. Truth is, you may have just had too many blue­ber­ries before­hand. Also, eval­u­at­ing your urine on your own may be a good step­ping stone to diag­nos­ing a prob­lem, but tak­ing any sus­pi­cions to your doc­tor is the only way to offi­cial­ly deter­mine any bod­i­ly dis­or­ders.”

There are oth­er unusu­al colours that may show up, includ­ing:

Pink or red: Some foods, like car­rots, black­ber­ries, beets, and rhubarb can turn your urine a pink­ish-red colour. This can also be a side effect of med­ica­tions like the antibi­ot­ic rifampin or a drug for uri­nary tract infec­tions (UTIs) called phenazopy­ri­dine.

Expert advised that you always check with your doc­tor if your urine is pink or red. “You might have blood in your urine. It does not always mean there’s a prob­lem, but it can be a sign of kid­ney dis­ease, a uni­nary tract infec­tion (UTI), prostate prob­lems, or a tumor.”

Despite its alarm­ing appear­ance, red urine is not nec­es­sar­i­ly seri­ous. Red or pink urine can be caused by blood, food and med­ica­tion.

Fac­tors that can cause uri­nary blood (hema­turia) include uri­nary tract infec­tions, an enlarged prostate, can­cer­ous and non­cancer­ous tumors, kid­ney cysts, long-dis­tance run­ning, and kid­ney or blad­der stones.

Beets, black­ber­ries and rhubarb can turn urine red or pink, while med­i­cines, like
Rifampin (Rifadin, Rimac­tane), an antibi­ot­ic often used to treat tuber­cu­lo­sis, can turn urine red­dish orange, just like phenazopy­ri­dine (Pyrid­i­um), a drug that numbs uri­nary tract dis­com­fort.

Orange: When your urine is the colour of a cit­rus-flavoured soft drink, it’s prob­a­bly because of med­ica­tions, like high-dose Vit­a­min B2, the UTI drug phenazopy­ri­dine, or the antibi­ot­ic Iso­ni­asid. Depend­ing on the colour, it could also be a sign that you’re dehy­drat­ed or that there’s a prob­lem with your liv­er or bile duct.

Orange urine can result from med­ica­tion, med­ical con­di­tion and dehy­dra­tion.
Med­ica­tions that can turn urine orange include the anti-inflam­ma­to­ry drug sul­fasalazine (Azul­fi­dine); phenazopy­ri­dine (Pyrid­i­um); some lax­a­tives; and cer­tain chemother­a­py drugs.

In some cas­es, orange urine can indi­cate a prob­lem with your liv­er or bile duct, espe­cial­ly if you also have light-coloured stools. Dehy­dra­tion, which can con­cen­trate your urine and make it much deep­er in colour, can also make your urine appear orange.

Blue or green: These hues are prob­a­bly due to dyes in your food or med­ica­tions you have tak­en, like the anes­thet­ic propo­fol or the allergy/asthma med­i­cine promet­hazine. “A few rare med­ical con­di­tions can also turn urine green or blue, so let your doc­tor know if the colour does not go away after a short time,” says an expert.

Blue or green urine can be caused by dyes, med­ica­tion and med­ical con­di­tion.
Some bright­ly coloured food dyes can cause green urine. Dyes used for some tests of kid­ney and blad­der func­tion can turn urine blue.

A num­ber of med­ica­tions pro­duce blue or green urine, includ­ing amitripty­line, indomethacin (Indocin, Tivor­bex) and propo­fol (Dipri­van), while Famil­ial benign hyper­cal­cemia, a rare inher­it­ed dis­or­der, is some­times called blue dia­per syn­drome because chil­dren with the dis­or­der have blue urine.

Usu­al­ly, green urine is total­ly harm­less and is a result of some­thing you’ve eat­en. “This is usu­al­ly a result of food colour­ing in some­thing you’ve eat­en; it can be nat­ur­al from some­thing like aspara­gus or, arti­fi­cial food colour­ing,” says Dr. Luke Powles, GP at Bupa Health Clin­ics.

Doris Obin­na

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