Dark Urine: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

A change in urine color can be concerning. Sometimes, dark urine is a symptom of simple dietary changes or medication side effects. However, in some cases, dark urine can also indicate a more significant health condition.

The good news is that a simple urine test called a urinalysis and other diagnostic tools can help you and your healthcare provider understand what is causing the change.

This article will review dark urine symptoms, causes, treatments, complications, diagnostic tests, and when to see a healthcare provider.

Healthcare provider holding a dark urine sample.

Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Dark Urine Symptoms

The primary symptom of dark urine is a color change from a normal, lighter urine color to a darker hue. Depending on the underlying cause, urine colors can be:

  • Dark brown
  • Cloudy or milky
  • Pink, red, or lighter brown
  • Dark yellow or orange
  • Green or blue

Talk to your healthcare provider if you experience any urine color that is not within the normal range of your usual urine color.

Causes of Symptoms

The kidneys are responsible for producing urine. When you eat or drink, fluids pass through the digestive and circulatory systems into the kidneys. Then your kidneys filter waste out of the fluids and expel the waste through the urine along with any excess fluids.

One of the most common causes of dark urine is dehydration from drinking an inadequate amount of fluids. However, there are many other causes of dark or abnormally colored urine, including illness, infection, medicine, or even the foods you eat.

Causes of dark urine symptoms may include:

  • Urinary tract infection (UTI) can lead to cloudy, milky, and foul-smelling urine. If blood is involved, the urine may turn pink or dark red.
  • Liver disorders such as acute viral hepatitis or liver cirrhosis can lead to a buildup of bilirubin that causes dark brown urine.
  • Severe dehydration causes dark brown urine.
  • Rhabdomyolysis is a serious condition involving the breakdown of muscle tissue that leads to dark brown urine.
  • Foods such as beets, blackberries, or other brightly colored foods can cause pink, red, or light brown urine.
  • Hemolytic anemia, porphyria, a tumor in the bladder or kidneys, or an injury to the urinary tract can make the urine appear light pink.
  • Menstrual blood can make urine appear dark pink or red.
  • Laxative use, vitamins, or carotene can make urine appear dark yellow or orange.
  • Bilirubin, some medications, artificial colors in foods, or UTIs can make urine appear green or blue.
  • Some medications, such as phenazopyridine (a medicine used to treat painful voiding) can turn urine dark orange or yellow.

What Medications Can Cause Dark Urine?

Sometimes, a new medication may make your urine darker, including:

  • Iron supplements
  • Cascara or senna laxatives
  • Levodopa, a medication for symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
  • Antimalarial drugs, including Aralen (chloroquine) or primaquine
  • Antibacterial drugs, such as Furoxone (furazolidone), Flagyl (metronidazole), and Macrobid (nitrofurantoin)
  • Phenazopyridine (UTI treatment)
  • Rifampin (tuberculosis medication)
  • Warfarin (a medication that prevents blood-clotting)

It is important to discuss medication side effects with your healthcare provider to learn if the medication you will be taking can cause dark urine.

How to Treat Dark Urine

Treatment of dark urine is determined by its cause. For example, in the case of dark urine caused by severe dehydration, drinking more water to stay hydrated may resolve the issue. If a medication is causing dark urine symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider to ensure that the symptom is a normal side effect of the medicine.

Always communicate with your provider if you are experiencing dark or unusual-colored urine. Diagnostic testing, such as a urinalysis, may be necessary to determine the cause and ensure there are no unknown underlying medication conditions.

Are There Tests to Diagnose the Cause of Dark Urine?

A urinalysis is a simple urine test that examines a small sample of your urine. This test is noninvasive and requires that you provide urine in a clear container for analysis.

A urinalysis typically includes three parts:

  • A visual exam to examine color and clearness
  • A microscopic exam to check for things that do not belong in normal urine that is not visible to the naked eye, such as red and white blood cells, or bacteria
  • A dipstick test to detect if a substance is present at an above-average level, such as protein, glucose, bilirubin, blood, or white blood cells

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you’re experiencing dark urine or any other change in urine color, see your healthcare provider for a physical examination and testing.

Fortunately, a urinalysis or other diagnostic tests can help you and your healthcare provider understand what is causing the issue. Based on the results of a urinalysis, your provider may want to perform other diagnostic tests.

Summary

Dark urine may be a symptom of simple dietary changes or medication side effects. However, it can also be a symptom of a larger health condition.

Depending on the cause, dark urine may be dark brown, cloudy or milky, pink, red, dark yellow, orange, or even green and blue.

One of the most common causes of dark urine is dehydration. However, many other diseases, infections, foods, and medications can cause dark urine.

A urinalysis is a simple urine test that can help determine the cause of dark urine symptoms. This test is noninvasive and requires a small amount of urine for analysis. The test will examine color and clearness, check for things that don't belong, and test the substances in your urine to ensure they are within normal levels.

A Word From Verywell

Dark urine symptoms can be concerning. But the good news is that a visit with your healthcare provider can help determine the cause. See your healthcare provider to ensure there aren't any underlying medical conditions that may be causing your dark urine symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is dark urine healthy?

    Normal urine color is a light yellow to amber color. Dark urine may indicate dehydration or another more serious underlying medication condition. See your healthcare provider for additional testing for any new or prolonged symptoms of dark urine.

  • Why is my urine dark even though I drink a lot of water?

    Because normal urine color is typically a light yellow to amber color, a darker cooler may signify a more serious healthcare issue. Diagnosis is impossible without additional diagnostic testing and a visit with your healthcare provider. You should contact your provider, who will likely gather your past medical information, perform a physical, and order additional diagnostic testing such as a urinalysis.

  • Can diabetes cause dark urine?

    High glucose levels from diabetes can damage the blood vessels in the kidneys over time. This puts more strain on the kidneys to filter blood and can eventually cause kidney disease. A symptom of diabetes and kidney disease may be bloody or very dark urine.

    UTIs are also more common in people with diabetes. Blood in the urine from a UTI may make the urine appear darker and redder in color.

  • What should you do if your urine is dark?

    See your healthcare provider immediately to find out if any underlying medical conditions may be causing your dark urine symptoms. Causes can range from dehydration, medication use, and foods to more serious healthcare conditions such as liver cirrhosis or rhabdomyolysis.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Sarah Jividen, RN
Sarah Jividen, RN, BSN, is a freelance healthcare journalist and content marketing writer at Health Writing Solutions, LLC. She has over a decade of direct patient care experience working as a registered nurse specializing in neurotrauma, stroke, and the emergency room.