Urine Colour: A Breakdown of the Different Pee Colours and Their Meanings

Have you ever gone to the toilet and thought something isn’t quite right afterwards? Maybe you found an abnormal urine colour, or noticed a funny smell. 

The colours of your pee can vary a great deal, even within the same day. In fact, one scientific study identified that it’s possible to detect more than 3,000 different chemicals within urine1, and some of these can change what it looks like. There’s certainly a lot to learn from your pee! 

We spoke with Dr John S. Young, Associate Professor in Urology, to find out more about what different urine colours might say about your health, and when you should see a medical professional. 

What is a normal, healthy urine colour?

Urine is mainly water, and it contains many chemicals that the body wants to get rid of, including urea.  Another of these chemicals is urobilin, which makes urine yellow.

There isn’t just one “perfect” urine colour that is considered as healthy, and what is considered to be normal will vary from person to person. According to Dr. John, it largely depends on “how much and when fluids are consumed.” 

“The more fluid someone consumes, the lighter the urine; so ‘healthy’ urine ranges from a very light shade of yellow to a dark yellow/amber colour if the individual is dehydrated. Our urine will typically be darker first thing in the morning, as the body has become a little dehydrated overnight.” 

Why is urine bright yellow or dark coloured? An insight on foods that can cause variations

Atypical urine is urine that has an unusual colour, is cloudy or is smelly. Thankfully, Dr. John explained to us that it’s usually nothing to worry about, as “people tend to notice changes to the appearance of their urine but it can be because of something in their diet or due to taking medication.” 

Even eating certain foods can result in a change in your pee, and a slight shock until you remember what you ate for dinner the previous day! Foods like asparagus cause green-tinged, smelly urine, while pink coloured urine is caused by eating beetroots. If we consume more B vitamins than our body requires, these are excreted and can make urine appear bright yellowy-green.

Other times, taking certain medications can also change the appearance of urine, resulting in the following colours... 

Medications that change urine colour

Red urine

  1. Taking rifampin (known as Rifadin, Rimactane), an antibiotic used to treat tuberculosis.

  2. Phenazopyridine (Pyridium), a drug used to help with the pain, irritation, or urgency caused by urinary tract infections.

  3. Laxatives containing senna.

Green/blue urine

  1. Amitriptyline, used to treat a number of mental illnesses.

  2. Indomethacin, used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and shoulder pain.

  3. Propofol, used to either induce or maintain anaesthesia and sedation.

Dark brown/black urine

  1. Nitrofurantoin, used to treat bladder infections.

  2. Methyldopa, used to treat high blood pressure.

  3. Chloroquine, used to treat malaria.

Medical causes of urine discolouration

Other times, illnesses or diseases can result in a change in urine colour. Please see some examples below: 

Red/brown urine

Reddish brown urine indicates blood in the urinary tract, resulting from kidney infection, stones in the kidney or bladder, cancer or conditions such as interstitial cystitis and painful bladder syndrome. 

Orange urine

Orange urine can be caused by the conditions listed under red/brown urine, as well as hinting to liver disease or problems with the bile duct. 

Blue urine

Blue urine causes can be a sign of excessive calcium levels caused by a genetic condition called familial benign hypercalcemia, or of a UTI caused by a type of bacteria called Pseudomonas. 

Purple urine

Purple urine is caused by a rare genetic condition called alkaptonuria, in which a chemical called homogentisic acid accumulates.

Consistency and smell: What causes smelly urine and cloudy foamy urine?

However, sometimes the change in your urine doesn’t affect the colour but rather the smell and consistency. Smelly pee is usually produced because of a urinary tract infection. We talk about this in more detail in our article on urine smell. While cloudy foamy urine means that protein is present, perhaps indicating kidney disease.

When should I talk to a doctor if I’m concerned about my urine colour?

Dr. John has some useful advice which should act as your first port of call if you notice that your urine colour has changed:

“If changes in appearance of urine coincide with changes in medications (new medicines as well as changes to doses of existing medicines), it’s sensible to check the information sheet that comes with medications to see if changes to urine appearance are to be expected. Likewise, think about whether you’ve eaten anything new.”

“Otherwise, it’s sensible to consult a healthcare practitioner, just to be on the safe side. Red, pink or brown urine usually suggest that something is wrong – though, in most cases, it’s something that’s easily treatable.”

Often if your urine assumes an abnormal colour, which might be a result of a urinary tract infection or a more serious condition, you might experience a constant urge to urinate. This may lead to incontinence – luckily, TENA’s wide range of incontinence pads and pants is here to make you feel protected and comfortable even when you’re experiencing leakages.  If you’d like to keep learning, read about the causes of urinary incontinence or check out our guide to the bladder.