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Why is my urine red? What does my urine colour mean? 

Written by Jan Mason, Registered Nurse with integratedliving

Look before you flush. Your urine colour can tell you a lot about your health and it pays to understand what message it is sending you.
 

The colour of your urine can tell you a lot about your health and your lifestyle habits.

Urine is 95 percent water and the rest consist of thousands of compounds leaving your body. These compounds affect the colour and odour of your urine and they are caused by numerous factors such as:

  • The types of food you eat
  • The amount of water you drink
  • The medication or vitamins you take
  • The medical conditions you are living with.

Urine colour and your health – What is a healthy urine colour? 

“Healthy” urine should be a clear light yellow colour with a slight odour. This is an indication that you are hydrated and your body is functioning well.  

In most cases, a change in the colour of your urine is harmless and you should be able to pinpoint the probable causes (as listed above). However if the change is sudden and you are seeing an unusual shade of urine over a period, you should see your doctor.  

To assist you with a better understanding of what your urine is telling you, here are some common urine colour changes and what they can mean in relation to your health.

What does different colour urine mean 

You might be surprised at the wide spectrum of colours your urine can come in. Here are some of the urine colour changes and their health indicators: ​

  • Clear/colourless urine – A sign that you are drinking a lot of water. It is good practice to stay hydrated but do consider reducing your fluid intake if you notice this shade for a long period to avoid overhydration. This will also reduce the number of times you visit the toilet. 
  • Pale yellow – An indication that you are healthy, normal and well-hydrated.  
  • Dark yellow – A signal to drink more water soon*. 
  • Amber – It can indicate dehydration and you should drink water immediately*. 
  • Orange – This might mean you are dehydrated and need water* or it can be caused temporarily by the food or medication (e.g. laxatives, sulfasalazine) you have consumed. It can also mean a potential liver condition.  
  • Pink to red – This may mean blood in your urine (hematuria) which could be a sign of kidney disease, prostate problems, tumours or a urinary tract infection (UTI). It might also be the result of eating beetroot, rhubarb or blueberries. See your doctor if you are unsure.  
  • Pale green or blue – Most likely caused by medication (e.g. indomethacin, amitriptyline) or food colouring. 
  • Cloudy/white (“pea soup” consistency) – This could be a symptom of a kidney condition or a urinary tract infection (UTI) in the body. In some cases, it may come with a foul-smelling odour.  
  • Foamy or bubbles – This could be caused by the speed of urination or a sign of high levels of protein in your urine. This can also be a symptom of Crohn’s disease or diverticulitis. 

* Please speak to your GP or specialist before increasing your water intake if you have been notified of having a fluid restriction.

Why is my urine red? 

A common concern and one that gets many seniors anxious and worried is red urine. Is it blood in my urine? How do I know it is not? Do I have an infection? It is normal to be confused and scared, and you are not alone.  

The general rule of thumb when you see red urine is to have a think about the food you consumed recently (e.g. beetroot, rhubarb or blueberries). The natural pigmentation in these foods may have caused a temporary change in your urine colour and it will go away once they pass through your body.  

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Another consideration is the medication you are on. For example, medication such as rifampin (Rifadin), phenazopyridine (Pyridium), and laxatives that contain senna, may cause red urine due to their inherent medicinal properties. It is perfectly normal, in such cases, to experience change in your urine colour. 

If you are unable to connect your red urine back to dehydration, food-related or medicinal-related causes, then it may be time to see your doctor. Take note of any of these symptoms:  

  • Pain in/along your sides 
  • Burning sensation during urination 
  • Strong or foul-smelling urine odour 
  • Frequent urge to urinate

 Your doctor will ask about these and may perform some tests to determine the causes of the red urine and if there are signs of blood in your urine.  

How can I treat unusual urine colour? 

In most cases, unusual urine colour is a result of dehydration and a simple lifestyle change is all that is needed. Here is what you can do: 

  •  Drink additional water and observe if your urine becomes closer to a pale yellow colour . Please speak to your GP or specialist before increasing your water intake if you have been notified of having a fluid restriction.
  • Cut down the consumption of foods with strong colour pigmentation (e.g. beetroot, rhubarb or blueberries) 
  • Wiping from front to back after using the toilet 
  • Keeping the genital area clean. If you are wearing incontinence aids or products, make sure they are changed regularly.  

 If you think your unusual urine colour is caused by medication, please speak to your doctor about your concerns. Do not stop taking them without first seeking professional medical advice. 

In cases of a urinary tract infection, your doctor would generally prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria that causes the issue. Following your prescription closely will help you get better quickly. 

Finally, seeing is not always believing. The colour of your urine can be affected by lighting, colour of the toilet and your eyesight. There is nothing embarrassing about asking your loved ones for help. Speaking to your doctor as soon as you notice something different makes a difference too. It is always better to seek professional advice sooner rather than later. 
 

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