You Wanted to Know: Dark Urine

White toilet bowl in a bathroom

Whether you’ll admit to peering into the toilet or not, how your urine looks can tell you a lot about your health. Your urine’s color can act as a barometer for everything from your hydration status to your liver and kidney function.

While the color of pee often varies throughout the day and can change due to certain foods or medications, there are a few changes in your urine that you shouldn’t ignore. Vicki reached out to us on Facebook because she was concerned about her husband:


Vicki, I’m glad you and your husband are paying attention to changes such as this one. There are several things that can potentially cause dark urine, some of which are more concerning than others.

Urine that is dark yellow or even orange could simply indicate that you’re dehydrated – you might notice it in the morning after a long night without water, for example. Try drinking more to see if the color lightens up to a nice pale straw yellow. If hydrating doesn’t help, think about your medication regimen. Vitamins such as carotene and B-complex vitamins, as well as certain medications like rifampin (commonly used to treat tuberculosis), sulfasalazine (an anti-inflammatory agent), phenazopyridine (used to numb the urinary tract) and certain antibiotics and laxatives may discolor urine.

However, it’s also possible that dark orange urine is the result of a problem with your liver or bile ducts, especially if it’s accompanied by lighter-than-normal stools. Sometimes, when the liver and/or bile ducts are not functioning properly, bilirubin (a breakdown product of red blood cells) can spill over into your urine, darkening it. A few disorders that can cause this include hepatitis, cirrhosis and benign or cancerous tumors.

Urine that is pink, red, brown or rust-colored may indicate a urinary tract problem. However, before getting worried, think back to what you had to eat recently. Foods such as beets, blackberries and rhubarb as well as heavily dyed foods may harmlessly and temporarily turn your pee red or pink. In other cases, however, these colors may indicate that there is blood in your urine, and urine containing small blood clots may resemble coffee grounds.

There are a number of medical conditions that can result in bloody urine, including (but not limited to) urinary tract infections, kidney stones, kidney infections, prostate disorders and benign or malignant bladder or kidney tumors. A urinalysis can painlessly and quickly detect blood in your urine, so any indication of blood in your urine should rapidly prompt a visit to your doctor.

Ideally, pee is clear. However, sometimes cloudy or murky urine could indicate a problem such as a urinary tract infection or kidney stones. Too much protein in the urine, which may occur in diabetes or certain kidney diseases, may also cause it to appear cloudy. But if you’re a woman, cloudy pee in the toilet bowl could also just be normal urine mixed in with vaginal secretions. Again, a quick urinalysis can help shed light on why urine might appear murky.

Always consult your doctor if you think you may have blood in your urine, or if you have urine changes that do not go away, that recur or that don’t seem to be tied to foods.

Watch this video to learn more about how to read your pee.