What It Means If You Have Cloudy Urine

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what it means if you have cloudy urine

We all urinate, or at least should be doing so daily. That means we also should know if something feels a little odd or off. If our urine is the wrong color or it's painful to go to the bathroom, it's often a bad sign. Because, really, we all know what urine should look like.

But what about cloudy urine? What causes cloudy urine and at what point should we consult a doctor? Just like when we notice signs of a UTI, diabetes, inflammation, or something else, when our urine looks different, it's a giant red flag.

So, what does cloudy urine mean? It can be something as minor as needing to up your water intake, but there are additional causes of cloudy urine that are much more serious and need to be investigated. Cloudy urine can have various meanings. "It could be a sign of a urinary tract infection or a sexually transmitted disease, it could be due to medications that you’re taking -prescribed or over-the-counter supplements, it even could be from dehydration," says Dr. Janette Nesheiwat. "It could also be because of drug use or muscle breakdown from exercising too hard resulting in rhabdomyolisis. Certain foods and drugs can cause it as well. Kidney disease or diabetes can cause cloudy urine. It’s important to see your doctor if the symptoms persist to have a simple urine test and make sure there’s no other underlying disease," says Dr. Nesheiwat.

Urine should be crystal clear like water. If it's not, there's a lot that may be going on.

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1. Infection

According to Eric Ascher, a family medicine physician, oftentimes, sexually transmitted diseases have signs and symptoms far beyond the time of intercourse, so it is a good idea to follow up with your doctor.

“When your urine is cloudy, that is the first sign on infection, whether urinary tract infection (UTI) or a sexually transmitted infection (STI)... Both UTIs and STIs can cause serious harm to your body if they go untreated... When your body tries to fight an infection, white blood cells are produced and directed to the site; in this case, mixing with your urine, and the cloudiness you see is the increased white cells. Other types of infections in females, such as vulvovaginitis, or in males, such as prostatitis, may also cause urine to take on a cloudy appearance.”

2. Diabetes

Doctors often do a urine test to rule out different diseases, and for good reason. For example, diabetes may cause cloudy urine from excess sugars your body is trying to release.

3. Diet

If your diet has changed recently, that may be why your urine looks different. Says Dr. Ascher, “Diets high in protein (meats, beans) may cause cloudy urine as well, as your body is releasing phosphorus.” So, while this may not be dangerous or something you need to consult a doctor about, always be aware of the color and how it changes.

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4. Kidney stones

There are several symptoms that may indicate you’re suffering from kidney stones. Caleb Backe, a Certified Personal Trainer, and health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics, says, “It’s important to realize that pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong, and this is especially true of a kidney stone, where pain is the biggest alarm bell. The pain itself may shift or become more intense depending on where the stone is moving through your body. You may experience severe back pain in the area below the ribs as well as a sharp sensation which moves toward the groin and lower abdomen.”

But in addition to the pain caused by kidney stones, it can also affect your urine. “Your urine may be cloudy and pink or brown in color, plus you may experience a constant urge to urinate. If the stone becomes stuck in the ureter, a blockage develops that causes you to urinate only small amounts at a time. This intensifies existing pain and is a definite sign you may have a kidney stone and should seek medical attention,” Backe warns.

5. Dehydration

Are you drinking enough water? Many of us don't meet the suggested daily intake of water. But the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine says the average amount of water women should drink per day is 2.7 liters, where men should drink 3.7 liters.

According to Dr. Ascher, "Dehydration may cause darker and cloudy urine because of how concentrated the urine is." So, if you notice that you have cloudy urine, it's time to drink up!

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6. Blood

If there's blood in your urine, you should see your doctor and be checked out immediately, as the causes can be dangerous. Some include kidney disease, enlarged prostate, UTI, kidney infection, and even cancer.

As Dr. Ascher warns, “Blood may show as cloudy pink urine... oftentimes a sign of kidney stones or perhaps cancer. Blood/pink urine is never normal and should be checked out by your primary care doctor.”

7. Prostatitis

This one sounds pretty scary. Prostatitis is a swelling of the prostate gland, and includes signs such as painful urination, flu-like symptoms, and pelvic pain.

"Prostatitis is one of the most common urinary tract problems among men and is usually paired with chronic pain and complications with urination. While cloudy urine may be a sign of prostatitis, it's more common for men to experience urinary urgency, blockage, and frequency in addition to painful urination," says Backe.

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Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly. Visit her on Twitter or email her at alywalansky@gmail.com.