Do a double take before you flush to monitor your health

Most of us don’t think much about our urine, but it’s worth taking a second look before you flush. The color of your urine is a good indication of what’s going on inside your body. Keeping track of it can help you head off potential health problems, both big and small.

“Urine is how your body gets rid of things it doesn’t need,” said Geisinger primary care physician Susan A. Werner, MD. “Many factors affect its color, from what you eat, to how much you drink and the medications you take.”

Urine is made up of water, salt and chemicals called urea and uric acid. It’s produced when your kidneys filter waste materials from your blood. Urine passes from your kidneys into your bladder. From there, it gets expelled through the urethra and out of your body.

The normal colors on the urine color spectrum

Everyone has their own “normal” when it comes to urine color, so knowing what’s normal for you serves as a great benchmark if anything changes. Typically, urine color ranges from pale to dark yellow.

“Urine gets its yellow color from urochrome, a chemical produced when your body breaks down dead blood cells,” said Dr. Werner. “It’s normal for the color to vary within a certain range depending on what’s going on inside.”

Within the normal range of urine color, you may see:

 Pale yellow: This is a healthy color. Your body is functioning normally and hydration levels are optimal. However, if pale yellow becomes clear, you may be overhydrated.

• Dark yellow: This is still within the normal range but may mean you are approaching dehydration. Urine gets darker when it contains less water in proportion to other waste products.

• Bright or fluorescent yellow: Very bright yellow urine is also normal if you take a multivitamin.

Pay close attention to urine’s other colors

If your urine strays outside these normal colors, it’s not necessarily time to panic. However, you should contact your doctor in certain cases. Other colors may indicate:

• Very dark yellow or amber: You are dehydrated. This is a good time to drink water.

• Brown: You are severely dehydrated or may have a problem with your liver. If this color persists after you rehydrate, it’s time to call your doctor.

• Pink or red: This may be something you ate, like beets or blueberries. If you haven’t eaten these foods, it could be blood in your urine from a urinary tract infection, kidney disease, tumor or problem with your prostate. This is another good time to call your doctor.

• Orange: You may be dehydrated or have a problem with your liver or bile duct. Seek medical attention if this happens more than once.

• Blue or green: These colors appear if you have bacteria in your urinary tract. It may also be from a medication or food dye. It’s not life threatening, but you should call your doctor if it is an ongoing issue.

• Foaming or fizzing: While not a color, foaming or fizzing may happen occasionally when you urinate. If it happens frequently, you may have protein in your urine or a kidney issue.

“Keeping track of your urine color is one of the simplest things you can do to monitor your health,” said Dr. Werner. “It may help you identify and address a minor problem before it becomes something more dangerous.”

Susan A. Werner, MD, is a primary care physician at Geisinger Nanticoke. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Werner or another Geisinger primary care physician, please call 570-258-1304 or visit Geisinger.org.

 

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