Did you know that the appearance of urine can provide vital clues about our health? Besides being a waste product, urine often reveals various aspects of our well-being that might require attention.

Different colours of urine can be attributed mainly to diet, medications, and, more critically, underlying health issues. Strong odour also serves as a tell-tale indicator of our health. Before flushing next time, take a moment to observe your urine. It might be sending red flags you are not aware of.

What do the colours mean?

The concentration of a pigment called urochrome is responsible for the yellow colour of urine, which may vary based on your water intake. Increasing your fluid intake can dilute these pigments and affect the urine colour.

Urine colours

Yellow to Orange

Urine typically appears between the range of pale yellow to orange with various hues in between. A darker yellow or orange urine might suggest that your body requires more hydration.

However, orange urine can also be caused by certain medications, supplements, or foods high in beta-carotene, such as carrots. In severe cases, it could also signify issues with the liver or bile duct. It is advisable to seek a proper diagnosis from a doctor if you notice such colour changes in your urine.

Pink to Red

Pink or red urine is usually due to the presence of blood in the urine, a condition known as haematuria. Possible causes of haematuria include urinary tract infections, kidney diseases, tumours, urinary stones, or prostate cancer.

In some cases, certain medications, antibiotics, or overconsumption of food like beetroot may also cause urine to appear pink or red. If you are concerned about the pinkish or reddish tint in your urine, get a medical diagnosis to identify the root cause.

Dark Brown

Besides pink or red urine, urine that is dark brown in colour can be a worrying concern too. While it is often a result of dehydration, having persistent dark urine might indicate underlying health issues such as liver or kidney disease. This occurrence could also be due to specific medications or rare genetic disorders like porphyria.

If you are unable to attribute the change in colour to a change in diet or medications, it is important to consult a doctor as soon as possible for further examination.

Is the smell far from normal?

Similar to colours, the smell of urine can offer valuable insights into our health. A mild odour is typically considered normal, but strong or pungent smells may serve as potential red flags.

Urine with a sweet scent might be a sign of diabetes, where the body is unable to break down sugar properly. A strong, ammonia-like smell could suggest a urinary tract infection or kidney disease, whereas a fishy smell could be due to bacterial vaginosis or certain metabolic disorders.

When should I visit a doctor?

Although variations in urine colour and odour can sometimes be linked to diet or medications, any persistent or unusual changes should be examined by a healthcare professional. It is also crucial to pay attention to any accompanying symptoms such as pain, fever, or urinary pattern changes, as these are valuable information that can help your doctor make a more accurate diagnosis.

While self-diagnosis based on urine can be helpful, it should not replace regular checkups. Annual health screenings are still highly recommended for early detection and intervention of any potential health issues.

Raffles Urology Centre

This article was contributed by Dr Wu Qing Hui, Specialist in Urology Consultant, Raffles Urology Centre