What your urine can tell you

Here is a very handy table courtesy of ConsumerReportsHealth March 2008. Enjoy studying this but please keep in mind that it is not possible to make a definitive diagnosis based on one sign or symptom. 

Fortunately, no one still practices the medieval art of assessing health by tasting the urine. But changes in your urine or your urinary habits can provide warning signs of danger from disease or certain drugs—or they may be harmless changes caused by food, supplements, or certain other drugs. This table can help you make that distinction. In general, consult your physician promptly about a urinary change if you have not consumed any of the benign substances listed below, or if you have any of the potentially harmful conditions or are taking any of the drugs listed. (Note that many of the drugs are available as generics.)

All but one of the potentially harmful medications affect the urine by impairing kidney function; the exception is warfarin, which can redden the urine by causing bleeding.

You may not have to contact your doctor quickly in two cases: You can usually treat dehydration simply by drinking more fluids if there are no other symptoms; and you can usually wait a day or two before calling your doctor about a suspected urinary-tract infection, unless you have severe symptoms, such as back pain or fever.

Urinary signs or symptoms Benign causes Potentially harmful causes
Foods Drugs and supplements Drugs Diseases and disorders
Strong or foul-smelling urine Asparagus Vitamin B6 None Dehydration, urinary-tract infection, uncontrolled diabetes
Black or dark urine Fava beans Laxatives containing cascara(Nature’s Remedy), high-dose iron Statin drugs such as atorvastatin (Lipitor) or simvastatin (Zocor) Liver or kidney disease
Cloudy or murky urine None None None Urinary-tract infection
Green or blue urine Food color additives Artificial dyes in many drugs, amitriptyline, cimetidine (Tagamet) None Pseudomonas infection; “blue diaper syndrome,” an abnormality in the ability to digest tryptophan
Pink, red, or smoky brown urine Beets, blackberries, other red foods Laxatives containing cascara (see above) Methyldopa, phenytoin (Dilantin), statins (see above), warfarin (Coumadin) Kidney disease, rare genetic disorders, or bleeding caused by infection, prostate enlargement, kidney infection, kidney or bladder stone, or kidney, bladder, or prostate tumor
Yellow or orange urine Carrots, rhubarb, beets, food color additives Laxatives containing cascara (see above) or senna (Senokot); fluorescein (a dye used in certain eye exams); phenazopyridine (Pyridium); aloe; riboflavin; vitamins A, B12 Rifampin (Rifadin), sulfa drugs (Gantrisin), warfarin (see above) Dehydration caused by exercise, excessive heat, fever, or insufficient fluid intake
Decreased urination None Anticholinergics such as atropine (Sal-Tropine) and hyoscyamine (Levbid), contrast agents for imaging tests Methotrexate (Trexall), sulfa drugs (Gantrisin) Dehydration, acute or chronic kidney disease
Frequent urination (more than four to six times a day or waking more than once a night to urinate) Excessive water consumption, caffeinated or alcoholic beverages Diuretics such as furosemide (Lasix), hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDIURIL, Microzide); contrast agents for imaging tests Lithium (Eskalith), phenytoin (Dilantin), tetracyclines (Declomycin) Urinary-tract infection, enlarged or infected prostate, uncontrolled diabetes, sickle-cell anemia, heart or kidney failure
Hesitant urination (difficult to start) None Anticholinergics (see above), various cold medicines such as chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), diphenhydramine (Benadryl Allergy); tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline None Enlarged or infected prostate gland, urinary-tract infection, urethral stricture
Painful or burning urination None Cold medicines (see above) None Urinary-tract infection, vaginal or vulval irritation, sexually transmitted diseases
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