What is Dark Urine?
Dark urine is where your urine is a darker shade than what’s considered the standard pale or straw yellow.
It can occur for multiple reasons, ranging from mild issues to serious health problems.
Depending on the underlying cause, you may also experience pain when you urinate or other disruptive symptoms. (1)
Urine is liquid surplus to requirements. It’s filtered from your blood along with excess fluid by your kidneys. It’s then stored in the bladder and expelled from the body.
Since urine is essentially your body’s internal waste, it can be a useful indicator of your health. (2)
The causes of dark urine fall under two broad categories. The first is external factors: certain substances you consume can darken your urine.
The second category consists of medical conditions. Dark urine can be a symptom of certain illnesses or diseases. (3)
We will now explore the various potential causes of dark urine.
Water is essential for life and overall health. Dehydration occurs when your water loss exceeds water intake.
When you don’t keep your body adequately hydrated it can impact upon your physical and mental performance. Even mild dehydration can provoke headaches, fatigue and irritation.
Urine color can be helpful in determining whether you are drinking enough throughout the day. The less water there is in your urine, the darker in color it will be. (3)
Certain forms of medication can change the color of your urine. These changes are ordinarily a minor side effect.
For example, the antibiotic metronidazole can cause dark brown urine. Rifampicin, another antibiotic, can result in reddish-orange urine.
Check with your doctor if the medication you are taking can cause dark urine. (4)
Foods and Beverages
Some foods and drinks can cause startling color changes in your urine. Eating fava beans can cause your urine to turn the color of tea. (5)
Artificial dyes found in processed foods and drinks can discolor urine. Your urine can turn orange or even green as a result.
Darkened urine as a result of foods and beverages is not permanent and usually harmless. (6)
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
A urinary tract infection is a result of bacteria in the urinary tract. Depending on the bacteria strain, symptoms can be minor to debilitating.
UTIs are one of the most common infections in the world. They affect an estimated 150 million people per year. (7)
The telltale signs of a UTI are painful urination and frequent urge to urinate. Urine may have an unpleasant odor and be darker than usual.
Most UTIs occur in the lower urinary tract and are easily treated with antibiotics. Infections in the upper tract can affect the kidneys and tend to be more serious.
If your urine is light brown, it can signal bleeding somewhere in the urinary tract. (8)
Blunt Trauma and Injury
An injury that does not penetrate your skin is known as blunt trauma. This type of injury on your abdomen or back can cause blood in your urine.
Bloody urine can be red, light brown, or pink depending on the freshness of the blood.
An injury to your urethra – where urine is expelled from – can also result in bloody urine. Blood in the urine should not be taken lightly. (9)
Jaundice is when the whites of your eyes and skin develop a yellow tinge. It is a result of high levels of bile in the blood.
Bile is considered waste by the body and is harmful in large quantities. Jaundice is usually a symptom of a problem with the bile duct or liver.
If your liver is inflamed or the bile duct is blocked, bile builds up in your blood.
Rhabdomyolysis results from indirect or direct assault to your muscle tissue. This includes crushing injuries from accidents drug use, and viral infections.
This condition causes fibers in the muscles to die off, which means their contents release into the bloodstream. If left untreated, rhabdomyolysis can end in kidney failure.
This dangerous illness has several key symptoms: dark brown or red urine, muscle weakness, and muscle pain. (11)
Cancer of the bladder, kidneys, and pancreas can cause dark urine.
One of the primary symptoms of pancreatic cancer is jaundice. Darkened urine is a typical early warning sign. (13)
Dark urine is often the earliest manifestation of bladder cancer. Your urine can turn orange, pink, or dark red depending on the amount of blood. (14)
Healthy urine ranges in color from pale yellow to straw yellow. Clear urine can indicate you are drinking too much water.
Dark urine itself is not a condition, but can be a symptom of underlying complications.
There are different shades of urine that are classified as dark:
Here are the different symptoms and what your body could be telling you: (15)
Dark yellow urine can still be considered normal. However, if you’re experiencing other symptoms it can be indicative of another condition. For example, UTIs and dehydration can darken urine.
Amber or Honey
Urine that is amber or honey in color is a typical sign of dehydration. Depending on the accompanying symptoms, it can also indicate a health condition.
Syrup or Brown ale
Urine of this color may indicate a serious issue. Brown-tinged urine can be a symptom of rhabdomyolysis, jaundice, or trauma-related injury.
Certain medications such as sulfasalazine, an anti-inflammatory, can turn urine orange. Artificial orange food-dyes can produce the same effect.
If you have symptoms such as pain and fever, you may have a blocked bile duct or infection.
Red-tinged or pink urine is usually caused by blood in the urine. Bloody urine can be a sign of serious underlying causes, such as bladder cancer.
Any symptom related to urine abnormalities requires a urine test. There are specific types of tests which check different aspects of your urine, such as concentration.
Your doctor will perform a series of tests to get to the root of the issue. Depending on your symptoms, you might have to do more than one test.
The types of urine tests and their purposes include the following: (16)
Rapid Urine Test
A rapid urine test consists of a test strip and a color chart. To take the test, you must urinate on the test strip. The color chart then delves into the test-strip result. Although you can take the test at home, you should not use it to self-diagnose.
This test will likely be performed if you are experiencing abdominal and lower back pain. It can also be used to explore potential causes of frequent urination or bloody urine.
A rapid urine test measures how acidic your urine is. Normal urine ranges from five to seven on
the pH scale. Acidic urine can be the mark of a UTI.
It also reveals the presence of substances that are usually not found in urine. Examples include protein, sugar, and red blood cells.
These results can help get to the root cause of dark urine. Protein in the urine can signify a kidney inflammation. A compound called leukocytes can indicate a UTI.
If the results of a rapid urine test are abnormal, your doctor may suggest a urinalysis. This test is a comprehensive analysis of your urine that takes place in a laboratory.
To provide a sample for a urinalysis, you have to urinate into a medical container. You should try to catch your urine mid-stream for best results.
A urinalysis checks three aspects of your urine. Firstly, color, concentration, and cloudiness are noted. Secondly, the chemical profile of your urine is collected.
Finally, the urine sample is examined with a microscope. This is to check for any bacterial or unusual cells.
A urinalysis can check for all the same things as a rapid urine test. It can also check for specific bacteria, creatinine and urine crystals. Both of these compounds can indicate potential kidney issues.
Just like the urinalysis, results of a urine culture are examined in a laboratory. It’s also best to provide a mid-stream urine sample.
This test checks urine for fungi and bacteria. It is usually recommended for individuals with UTIs. Identifying the bacteria type can help your doctor prescribe the best antibiotic.
24 Hour Urine Samples
This test involves provision of urine samples over 24 hours. Every time you urinate you will do so in a container. It is considered a deeper form of urine analysis.
Between urinating, the container should be kept in a refrigerator. At the end of the 24 hour period, the urine is analyzed in a laboratory.
This type of test is used to determine what your body is excreting over time. It can check kidney function and possible hormonal disorders.
What is dark urine? Dark urine is when your urine is an abnormally deeper shade. It can be varying tones of orange, brown, red, or dark yellow.
How do doctors test for dark urine? Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may perform one or more tests. These include a rapid urine test, urinalysis, or urine culture. A 24 hour urine test is also another way to pinpoint the cause.
When should you go to the doctors with dark urine? If your symptom does not improve by drinking more fluids, you should seek medical attention. The underlying causes of dark urine can lead to serious consequences if untreated. An exemption to this rule is if you are taking a medication with a side effect of dark urine.
Can you prevent dark urine? Staying hydrated can prevent dark urine. Healthy lifestyle practices reduce your chances of UTIs,
What can relieve dark urine? Depending upon underlying cause, dark urine can be relieved with appropriate medical treatment for the condition. For example dehydration-related dark urine can be relieved by drinking more water.
What can cause dark urine? It’s a symptom relating to a wide variety of causes, including: dehydration, infections, injury, or diseases.
What is considered dark urine? Dark urine is considered any color deeper than straw yellow.
Is dark urine a serious symptom? Dark urine can be a sign of a mild issue or something more dangerous. In some cases, dark urine can indicate a serious condition such as bladder cancer.
In this review, we have established numerous causes could be a sign of dark urine.
Dark urine can be a harmless side effect of medication. It can also be a short-term result of eating or drinking products known to discolor urine.
However, if your urine is dark and you have symptoms that are painful or debilitating you should head to a doctor.
Some of the underlying causes of dark urine can be life-threatening. The presence of blood in the urine is always a serious cause for concern, as it can indicate early stage bladder cancer.