The color of our urine can indicate either good or poor health, but which colors are dangerous enough to look out for?
The color of our urine can tell us a lot about our body. And for the most part, we may think as long as our pee is yellow, we’re in good health. Unfortunately, there is only little truth in that statement.
“A pale yellow color is a good sign that you’re healthy and hydrated,” explains Dr. Vivika Joshi, reproductive health expert at Dr. Felix. “Transparent yellow is fine too, and dark yellow suggests you’re healthy, but you’re beginning to lose hydration. If your urine is darker than that, though, you need to take action.”
The solution? Drink water–and lots of it, unless you’ve previously had organ and bladder problems. Mayo Clinic recommends an average of 13 cups per day for men and 9 for women, although the number is not meant to be a strict formula for everyone.
University of California-San Diego Health says amber or honey-colored urine could indicate possible dehydration; light orange tints suggest possible dehydration or possible liver or bile duct problems; dark or black hues can be either food dyes, copper or phenol poisoning, or melanoma; and white or milky tones could indicate a urinary tract infection. A red color, a more worrisome one, can indicate anything from a kidney stone to lead or mercury poisoning.
“Brown urine may just be dehydration, but it can also be a sign of liver disease, so you need to see a doctor if your urine remains this color after you’ve drank water,” adds Dr. Felix. “If it’s pink or red, it may not be anything to worry about, but [these colors] might be a sign of blood in the urine, which is a medical problem that needs immediate attention.”
Additionally, it’s important to consider outside factors before jumping to conclusions. According to the Cleveland Clinic, certain factors–such as prescription medications, laxatives, and other drugs–can influence the color of your urine. For instance, a deep orange color is typically caused by the drugs, rifampin and phenazopyridine; and blue or green urine is likely from food coloring.
Ultimately, the only person who can properly diagnose whether your urine color is healthy or not is your doctor. The Cleveland Clinic adds that blood in the urine–a serious sign of lingering medical problems–is naked to the human eye, which makes it only detectable through a urine test.
So what about the odor of your urine? Dr. Joshi says it’s normal for pee to smell strong in the morning, but for the most part, shouldn’t have a particularly bad smell at all.
“If [your urine] suddenly begins to smell much worse than usual, it’s likely a sign of a urinary tract infection, and needs medical attention,” Dr. Joshi elaborates. “If you’re also experiencing pain in your sides, a high temperature, chills or sickness, you may have a kidney infection, and you need to see a doctor as soon as possible.”