Discoloured urine

Urine discolouration can occur for a variety of reasons. Darker urine is a result of urine being too concentrated, which is usually due to dehydration, but it can indicate harmful waste in the body.

  • Can often be related to issues with the liver or bladder
  • Doctors will use urinalysis to help diagnose an underlying condition
  • There is no specific treatment for discoloured urine

If you notice a change in the colour of your urine and would like to speak to a doctor, you can contact one of our GMC-registered clinicians via our online video consultation service. They can issue advice, prescriptions and referrals for treatment between 9.30am and 4.30pm, five days a week.

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Possible causes

What causes discoloured urine?

The possible cause of discoloured urine can be categorised according to the colour that the urine has changed to. This may be affected by a number of factors, including vitamin levels, medication and an underlying condition.

The normal colour of urine is caused by a breakdown of the chemical bilirubin, which is converted into urobilin. This is a result of red blood cells, carrying oxygen, being broken down. 

Orange urine

Urine which is orange in colour usually indicates dehydration, as dehydration makes it much more concentrated. Orange urine is also associated with medication use - Rifadin (an antibiotic), Coumadin (an anticoagulant) and Pyridium (helps with pain from urinary tract infections) are the three most common medicines that can lead to orange urine.

Red urine

The most likely cause of red urine is hematuria (blood in the urine). This can vary in intensity, from barely noticeable to a dark red, which is a sign of active bleeding. Usually, urinary tract infections are the cause of red urine, but there are a wide range of possibilities. Common causes include the presence of a kidney stone, which can irritate the urethra and lead to bleeding, and an injury to the urinary tract from a fall or strenuous exercise.

Brown urine

Brown urine typically stems from the use of certain medication. Drugs that may darken urine include antimalarial treatments such as chloroquine and primaquine, antibiotics such as metronidazole and muscle relaxants such as methocarbamol. Rarely, brown urine can indicate liver failure, which may be accompanied by jaundice symptoms.

Blue or green urine

Sometimes dyes from either food or bladder function tests can turn urine blue or green. Some medications can in rare instances lead to blue or green urine, such as amitriptyline (an antidepressant) and indomethacin (an NSAID). Very rarely, a urinary tract infection containing pseudomona bacteria can cause green urine.

Diagnosing the cause of discoloured urine

For discoloured urine, a doctor will ask you about events leading up to the urine discolouration and inquire as to your medical history before taking some tests. It’s unlikely that they will conduct a physical examination.

A clinician will also ask if there is any pain associated with the altered urine colour, and if there are any other symptoms. They will look to establish what medications you are on, and whether you have recently over-exerted yourself. A doctor will also look to establish if you have been exposed to any chemicals or substances that may have had an impact on the bladder.

A doctor will use urinalysis to look for indications of an underlying condition. A urine sample can be checked to determine if there is any bacteria present, which can indicate a urinary tract infection. 

Some blood tests may also be carried out to examine the level of protein in the blood, and what minerals are being excreted. They can also measure the level of creatinine in the blood, which can show if too many waste products are in the bloodstream, which would indicate that the kidney is not functioning properly. 

You may want to speak to a clinician via our online video consultation service if the colour of your urine has changed. Our GPhC-registered clinicians are available for a consultation between 9.30am and 4.30pm, Monday to Friday.

Page last reviewed:  11/06/2020
Types of Treatment

How is discoloured urine treated?

There is no specific treatment for a change in urine colour, but once a doctor has isolated what the cause is, they can treat the underlying condition or find an alternative medication, if required.

If you are diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, it’s likely that a clinician will prescribe some antibiotics to clear the infection. The first-line treatment for uncomplicated urinary tract infections is trimethoprim. It can be taken over a three day period for women, and over seven days for men.

If the cause of the urine discolouration is related to dehydration, a doctor may recommend increasing fluid intake, and trying to limit the amount of salt and caffeine that you drink, which can lead to the characteristic orange colour of urine when the body is dehydrated. It’s also important to clean the genitals after sex, particularly if you’re a woman, as wiping the wrong way can lead to an infection.

If a medication is leading to urine discolouration, a doctor may suggest lowering the dosage, or finding an alternative version of the drug. 

It’s possible that gallstones are causing a change in the colour of your urine. They can be dissolved with certain medications, which thin the bile being produced. In some cases, gallstones can be removed surgically if they are very uncomfortable. 

Urine discolouration is common, and although it is important to be wary of a potentially serious cause, in most cases it’s triggered by medication, or dehydration. If you are worried about urine discolouration, particularly if you suspect that there is blood in the urine, you may want to speak to one of our GMC-registered doctors via our online video consultation service. They are available to consult with between 9.30am and 4.30pm, five days a week. 

Page last reviewed:  11/06/2020
Questions and Answers

How long is it normal to have discoloured urine for?

If you can attribute the change in urine colour to dehydration or a side effect of medication, particularly if you have only recently started using the treatment, it will normally pass within one or two days. This is also the case for any foods which may change the colour of your urine, or if they contain dye.

Is discoloured urine serious?

Urine discolouration is usually only serious when it is accompanied by other symptoms. For example, if you notice abdominal pain and swelling in certain areas around the body, which is accompanied by brown-coloured urine, this could be an indication of liver disease.

Can I get treatment for discoloured urine?

There is no specific treatment for urine discolouration; the aim is to find the underlying cause and treat the condition. If an infection is causing a change in urine colour, you may require antibiotics. Urinary tract infections are the most common infectious cause of a change in urine colour, and can often be treated with trimethoprim.

How can I prevent discoloured urine?

In cases of dehydration, urine discolouration can be prevented by consuming sufficient fluids. You can also avoid certain foods which may impact on your urine colour, such as asparagus, which can turn urine green, or beetroot, which can give urine a reddish hue.

Can I speak to a doctor about discoloured urine?

One of our registered clinicians can advise you on whether you need further treatment, and how you can manage urine discolouration, via our online video consultation service. Where appropriate, they can also provide prescriptions and referral to specialists. Our clinicians are available between 9.30am-4.30pm, Monday to Friday.

Page last reviewed:  11/06/2020

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