What Cloudy Urine Means

When You Should Call Your Doctor

Normal urine is clear and a light or straw yellow color, and any change in the color or clarity of your urine can indicate a possible health issue such as a urinary tract infection (UTI), kidney stone, sexually transmitted disease (STD), or even simple dehydration. If you do notice such a change, and it doesn't go away within a short period of time, it's usually a good idea to talk to your doctor about it, especially if you have other symptoms too.

Common causes of cloudy urine
Illustration by Cindy Chung, Verywell 

Causes of Cloudy Urine

The color and clarity (transparency) or cloudiness (turbidity) of urine can be a clear signal of a urinary system condition. The most common causes of cloudy urine include:

  • Dehydration: Sometimes your urine may appear cloudy when you haven't been drinking enough water and you're dehydrated. If you have no other symptoms and it clears up quickly once you rehydrate, there's most likely no reason to worry. Just make sure you're drinking enough water to quench thirst every day; drink extra if you notice your urine is getting cloudy again, and continue to keep an eye on it. Keep in mind that alcohol and coffee both have dehydrating effects, so limit your consumption of these beverages.

If your urine is still cloudy after you've upped your water intake, it's time to make an appointment with your doctor.

  • Urinary tract infection (UTI): If you have cloudy urine and it's accompanied by an unpleasant odor, it's very likely that you have a urinary tract infection. Other symptoms may include feeling a frequent urge to urinate even when you know you don't need to; pain or burning when you urinate; urinating frequently in small amounts; pink or red urine; and pelvic pain. Bacteria, pus, and/or blood from the infection are usually the cause of your urine's cloudiness and strong smell. A UTI can involve any part of your urinary tract, including your kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra, but most UTIs affect your bladder and/or urethra. For women, in particular, a UTI can occur because the female anatomical structure lends itself to E. coli formation in your bladder; this bacterium is the culprit in the majority of cases. If you're pregnant and you think you have a UTI, be sure to get checked by your doctor since an untreated UTI can lead to preterm labor and low birth weight.
  • Kidney stones: Cloudy, foul-smelling, and/or crystallized substances in your urine can be a symptom of kidney stones. These hardened mineral and salt deposits vary in size and don't usually cause symptoms unless they start moving out of the kidney into your urinary tract. Other symptoms can include severe pain in your back or side that may move as the stone does, pain in your abdomen, bloody urine, nausea or vomiting, fever, chills, and feeling like you need to urinate frequently.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs): STDs like gonorrhea and chlamydia may cause discharge from the vagina or penis that can get into your urine and make it cloudy.
  • Vaginitis: This common inflammation of the vagina due to a yeast infection or other vaginal imbalance can cause a discharge that results in cloudy urine.
  • Diabetes: Having a high blood sugar level or issues with your kidneys as a result of having type 1 or type 2 diabetes, requiring insulin, can cause cloudy urine. The presence of ketones, byproducts of your body breaking down fats, can do the same.

    Cloudy urine can be one of the first signs that you have diabetes.

    Cloudy urine can also indicate:

    • Prostate infection or enlargement
    • Protein in your urine from kidney disease, dehydration, fever, stress, or strenuous exercise
    • Blood in your urine from another kind of infection
    • Bacteria, mucus, epithelial cells, white or red blood cells, fat, phosphates, or pus (also known as pyuria) in your urine, which can be due to a UTI, diabetes, kidney or bladder infection, or a sexually transmitted disease

    Cloudy urine and bloody urine are also common after treatments for prostate cancer.

    Other Urine Colors

    Cloudy urine isn't the only urine change that might cause you to do a double take. Depending upon the causes, urine can have blood in it, or it can turn red, pink, brown, clear, orange, blue, black, green, or dark yellow. These colors can be due to medications, dyes or natural colors in your food, infections, or disease.

    When to Seek Help

    If you experience cloudy urine that lasts for more than a short period of time, you should see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment, especially if you have other symptoms. If cloudy urine is accompanied by sharp pain and/or blood, call your doctor immediately. Blood in your urine for any reason and any abnormal urine color that can't be explained by a medication or food always necessitates a visit with your doctor as well. Your doctor will do a urinalysis, tests on a sample of your urine, to look at what might be causing your cloudy urine.

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    Article Sources

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    Additional Reading

    • Almekinder E. Your Urine and Diabetes: What You Should Know. The Diabetes Council. Updated March 28, 2018. https://www.thediabetescouncil.com/urine-and-diabetes/
    • Kasper DL, Fauci AS, Hauser SL, Longo DL, Jameson JL, Loscalzo J. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 19th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education; 2015.
    • Mayo Clinic Staff. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). Mayo Clinic. Updated August 25, 2017. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-tract-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20353447.
    • MedlinePlus. Urine—Abnormal Color. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Updated June 4, 2018. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003139.htm.
    • National Kidney Foundation. Do You Have Symptoms of a Kidney Stone?https://www.kidney.org/news/kidneyCare/winter09/KidneyStoneSymptoms.