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Published on April 06, 2017

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What Pee Color Means

Our fascinating bodily functions can tell us about our health, and urine is no exception. You’ve probably wondered why it can vary in shade from day to day.

Dileep Bhat, MD, a urologist with Avera Medical Group Specialty Care Brookings, said he encourages patients who see certain patterns – and colors – to get it tested.

“Urochrome, a natural dye, makes urine light yellow, and when you’re not drinking enough water, your kidneys concentrate urine and it’ll be darker,” said Bhat. “If you’re getting plenty of water, urine may appear colorless. But if your urine appears to be red or orange, there could be blood in it. It’s telling you one thing: go see your doctor.”

Underlying kidney, bladder or prostate problems could cause blood to appear and it also can be an indicator of cancer. Make sure the issue is addressed quickly.

“An infection can lead to burning pain during urination, and we can test it for blood, pus or bacteria,” he said. “A burning feeling is another red-flag symptom and one you should have your doctor evaluate.”

Changes in color are more significant when coupled with other symptoms, Bhat said.

“We see people who are experiencing issues with frequency of urination, such as having to get up in the night to use the bathroom,” he said. “For men, age brings prostate gland growth, and that can lead to blockage that can prevent emptying the bladder completely.”

For men, if you can’t go when you want, your stream is slow or weak or you’re dribbling after you thought you were done, it could be blockage. Women do not have prostate gland issues, but face urinary health challenges.

For women, bladder infection and overactive bladder are the most common issues.

“We can prescribe medications to help,” Bhat said. “Blockage is rare, but women do sometimes face leakage as the urinary sphincter weakens. We can treat that problem as well.”

Food can cause false alarms, Bhat said, and the biggest culprit is a root vegetable known for its robust hue.

“Beets are delicious, but they can color your urine, so don’t be surprised if you eat beets and have darker urine,” he said. “Asparagus can affect the odor, but in some cases, odor means infection.”

Like color, urine’s scent being off once or twice is usually nothing, Bhat said.

“If you notice color or odor changes that persist or come with burning or hesitancy, go see your doctor.”

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