Cloudy Urine: What Does It Mean and Is It a Reason for Concern?

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Cloudy Urine: What Does It Mean and Is It a Reason for Concern?
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There is a lot that the color of urine can tell about your health, and passing cloudy urine could mean that you are dehydrated or have an infection. Noticing cloudy urine once in a while is rarely a reason for concern. Usually, the symptoms go away quickly and your urine returns to the light straw-yellow color it should be.

Some medical conditions can cause your pee to appear consistently cloudy and, possibly, foamy as well. For example, urinary tract infections, kidney infections, kidney stones, or bacterial infections can all cause cloudy urine. These reasons for foggy-looking pee could give your urine a cloudy yellow color, or it could look like dark cloudy urine with a strong ammonia-like smell.

If a medical condition is making your pee cloudy, you might also have other symptoms like flank pain, a burning sensation when peeing, pressure in the lower abdomen, or a persistent urge to urinate. In cases of a mild urinary infection, there are many effective home remedies that can help to kill off the infections and stop your pee being cloudy and smelly.

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In this article, you will learn what it can mean if you have cloudy urine as well as other symptoms of an infection in your urinary system. At the end of the article, I will discuss what it means if you have cloudy urine when pregnant and what to do if your children start peeing cloudy urine.

What is Cloudy Urine?

Urine can become cloudy, hazy, or foggy if there are other substances in the urine. Cloudy urine is also referred to as turbid urine and can indicate a number of underlying factors.

According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, the normal color of urine should be a pale yellow, almost translucent color, to deep amber. The reason for the difference in color of normal, healthy urine, is due to the concentration of a pigment called urochrome. The more urochrome is diluted then the lighter yellow color your urine will be.1

There are a number of factors that can turn your urine a different color. For example, researchers from UC San Diego Health say that some simple explanations for darker colored urine are dehydration, eating beets, rhubarb, or asparagus, consuming foods containing dyes, or taking certain medications.2

Milky cloudy urine could indicate the presence of certain proteins or white blood cells in urine. According to the journal NDT Plus, turbid urine can indicate that there are high amounts of protein in urine excreted from the kidneys. This is called proteinuria and may also cause bubbles when you pee.3

Researchers from the Georgia Highlands College report that other substances that can turn pee cloudy are mucus, bacterial phosphates, or squamous epithelial cells in urine.4

Symptoms of Cloudy Urine

In many cases, the only symptoms of cloudy pee you may have is passing cloudy urine with no pain. If this has been caused by dehydration, then drinking enough fluids should quickly turn your urine a light, straw-like color.

If the symptoms of cloudy urine are the result of an infection anywhere in your urinary tract, you may experience some of the following symptoms:

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Why is Your Pee Cloudy?

Many people who notice that their pee isn’t the usual clear pale-yellow color may wonder what causes cloudy urine. Let’s look in more detail at what medical research reveals as to the many causes of passing cloudy urine.

Dehydration

Dehydration has a negative impact on your general health and is one of the most common reasons for cloudy pee with no pain or symptoms.

Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet says that not having an adequate fluid intake can cause turbid or cloudy urine. This usually isn’t a serious condition and is resolved by drinking enough water.5

The journal American Family Physician says that dehydration can also cause proteinuria which causes an excess amount of protein in your urine. One of the symptoms that proteinuria can cause is persistently passing foamy urine that causes bubbles in the toilet water.6

The best way to stop passing dark cloudy urine due to dehydration is to increase your water intake. Drinking more fluids can also help to prevent other complications of dehydration.

There is also the other extreme of dehydration which can be a reason why urine is clear, without any color. Clear urine with no hint of color at all could mean that you are over hydrating. This can cause an electrolyte imbalance and cause abnormally low sodium levels in your body.

Kidney infection

A bacterial infection of your kidney can cause turbid urine that has a bad smell along with abdominal pain.

According to Dr. Siamak Nabil on eMedicineHealth, bacteria that get into the urinary tract via the vagina, anus, or skin can result in kidney infections. Because women have a shorter urethra, they are more prone to infections of the kidneys than men. This can result in cloudy urine that may also have traces of white blood cells or red blood cells.7

Other symptoms of a kidney infection include:

The location of your kidneys is on either side of your spine in your middle back. To keep your kidneys in good health, it’s important to avoid too much sugar and salt, smoking, dehydration and other habits that damage your kidneys. Drinking plenty of water and enjoying a healthy diet are great ways to care for your kidneys’ health.

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Kidney stones

Another condition that can affect your kidneys and cause dark and cloudy urine that causes pain when you pee is kidney stones. Mineral deposits can build up in your kidneys and cause a lot of pain when they move in your urinary tract.

Researchers from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases report that kidney stones may cause cloudy urine that smells bad when you pee. The accompanying pain with cloudy yellow pee can be extremely severe and debilitating.8

Kidney stones may also cause some of the following symptoms:

  • Excruciating pains in your lower back
  • Tinges of blood in your urine
  • A painful sensation when urinating
  • Only being able to urinate a small amount

Drinking apple cider vinegar is one way to get rid of kidney stones naturally and prevent them from reoccurring. The acidic content of apple cider vinegar helps to dissolve the mineral deposits in your kidneys and helps prevent infections in your kidneys from developing.

Urinary tract infection (UTI)

Your pee may be cloudy because of a urinary tract infection, especially if you have noticed pain when urinating and a strong smell. Infections in your urinary system cause an increase of leukocytes in your urine that make it look foggy and may be any color from yellow to dark amber.

According to a report in the Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal, UTIs are common bacterial infections in women. This commonly causes urine to appear cloudy and give off an offensive odor. Other symptoms of a UTI include:9

The above report recommended some of the ways to prevent a urinary tract infection which include wiping from front to back, avoiding wearing tight clothing, and not practicing vaginal douching.

Some of the best ways of treating a mild urinary tract infection naturally include D-mannose supplements, drinking baking soda and water, and consuming cranberries and raw plain yogurt.

Cystitis

Dark yellow cloudy urine that smells bad could be a symptom of cystitis. Cystitis is an infection of the bladder caused by bacteria and is a type of urinary tract infection.

Doctors from the National Health Service say that cystitis is very common in women, although men can also suffer from this type of UTI. The infection can cause traces of blood in your urine which can make urine dark and cloudy. Other cystitis symptoms include:10

Usually, the same ways of treating and preventing urinary tract infections are effective for getting rid of the symptoms of cystitis. Drinking cranberry juice can also help to improve your vaginal health and fight infections in your urinary system.

Prostatitis

Prostatitis is one of the reasons that turns men’s urine from a clear yellow color to dark cloudy pee that appears foggy. Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate gland that causes some pain in the genitals and fever-like symptoms.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that bacteria entering the urinary tract are often to blame for infection of the prostate. Prostatitis can cause cloudy urine that may or may not have blood in it. As with most urinary infections, pain when urinating and a frequent need to pee are common.11

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Some associated symptoms of prostatitis include:

  • Lower back pain or abdominal pain in men
  • Sore testicles
  • Pain when ejaculating
  • Pain between the rectum and scrotum
  • Getting up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom

Vaginitis

Women may have cloudy urine that looks dark and yellow if inflammation and infection of the vagina have caused vaginitis. The most common type of vaginitis is bacterial vaginosis caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. However, candidiasis, or candida yeast overgrowth, can also cause cloudy pee when you urinate.

According to Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet, vaginitis can cause abnormal vaginal discharge with a strong odor. As well as discharge that causes cloudy urine, vaginitis can cause itching, pain, and swelling around the vaginal opening.12

Taking probiotics regularly is one way to improve your vaginal health and help prevent recurring vaginal infections. Also, tea tree oil is a natural antibacterial and antifungal remedy for treating bacterial vaginosis naturally. If a yeast infection is to blame for cloudy urine, you can try virgin coconut oil, apple cider vinegar or raw plain yogurt.

Sexually transmitted disease (STD)

Some types of sexually transmitted diseases cause bacterial infections of the reproductive organs that can result in cloudy smelly urine.

Doctors from WebMD report that cloudy urine is often associated with STDs and also cause yellowish or greenish discharge from the vagina or penis.13

Parasite infection

Parasite infections can cause murky-looking urine because they can cause urinary tract infections as well as other health complications.

According to a report published in the journal Urology Annals, parasite infections can cause urine to turn a cloudy milky color. The foggy urine can be a result of infection or because of lymph fluid leaking into the kidneys and urinary system.14

If you suspect that you have a parasite infection, you can use diatomaceous earth to kill off the internal parasites naturally. You can also read my article on how to get rid of intestinal worms naturally for more helpful advice.

Retrograde ejaculation

One of the reasons why men may ask why their pee is cloudy is if they suffer from retrograde ejaculations. Retrograde ejaculations cause some or all of the semen to enter the bladder rather than exiting the penis when ejaculating. This can result in a dry orgasm.

According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, one of the symptoms of retrograde ejaculation is cloudy urine after climaxing. This doesn’t usually cause any other complications, however, it may make fathering a child difficult or impossible.15

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Cloudy Urine With a Strong Odor

If you have symptoms of urine that gives off a strong odor like ammonia, then it could be caused by a number of factors. The most obvious reason for occasionally getting an unpleasant whiff of bad odor from cloudy urine is dehydration.

Some other reasons for peeing smelly cloudy urine include:16, 17

  • Vitamin B6 supplements
  • Inflammation or infection of your bladder, kidneys, or urinary system
  • Taking certain medications

Cloudy Yellow Urine in Men and Women

Both women and men can show symptoms of passing cloudy urine that may or may not cause a stinging sensation when peeing.

Unfortunately, women suffer more frequently from urinary tract infections because the vaginal opening is close to the rectum. This means that bacteria can easily transfer to the urinary tract. Also, sexual intercourse can allow bacteria to easily enter the urinary system.

Reasons for cloudy urine only in females include:

  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Vaginitis

Men can also suffer from urinary tract infections, however less frequently than women. Some reasons for cloudy urine in men include:

  • Prostatitis
  • Retrograde ejaculation

Of course, any kind of kidney infection, kidney stones, or inflammation of the bladder can result in men and women passing hazy urine when using the bathroom.

Is Cloudy Urine a Sign of Early Pregnancy?

There is no evidence to suggest that cloudy urine in women is a specific sign of early pregnancy. However, when implantation happens, the cervix and vagina produce more pregnancy discharge that is milky white. Therefore, it is possible that this mixes with urine to give it a foggy appearance in early pregnancy.

What Does Cloudy Urine During Pregnancy Mean?

There can be many reasons why urine appears murky and cloudy during pregnancy. Of course, any of the causes of cloudy urine mentioned in this article can affect women when they are pregnant. So, if you have cloudy pee that smells bad along with vaginal itching and burning when you urinate, you might have a urinary tract infection.

However, cloudy urine after the 20th week of pregnancy could be a symptom of preeclampsia. Doctors from the American Pregnancy Association say that preeclampsia causes high blood pressure and increase protein secretions in urine (proteinuria). This can be accompanied by headaches, fatigue, pain in the upper right abdomen, and bruising easily.18

Cloudy Urine and Back Pain

Any kind of infection in your urinary tract from your kidneys to your pelvic area can make urine cloudy and cause back pain. Some of the most common reasons for back or flank pain along with smelly cloudy urine are:

  • Kidney stones that cause unbearable abdominal or back pain
  • Kidney infections that may also cause foul smelling cloudy urine
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Bladder inflammation

Cloudy Urine in the Morning

Urine may appear cloudier and have a stronger smell in the morning because there is a higher concentration of waste products, salts, and other chemicals. This is why doctors advise taking urine tests for pregnancy or other health conditions first thing in the morning.

Cloudy Pee in Children

Should you be worried if your child’s pee is cloudy or has a murky appearance? Very often, cloudy pee in children is the result of a urinary tract infection. Doctors from the National Health Service say the UTIs in children are rarely serious but they still require prompt medical treatment to prevent any complications.19

Of course, you should make sure that dehydration is not the cause of your child passing cloudy pee.

When to See a Doctor

Occasionally noticing that your pee is cloudy is rarely a cause for concern, especially if you have no other symptoms. You should increase your fluid intake and drink enough water so that your urine is a pale straw-yellow color.

However, what should you do if you have cloudy yellow urine or dark foggy urine along with other symptoms? This is usually a sign of an infection and requires medical attention.

Dr. Gregory Thompson on WebMD says that you should see a doctor if you have cloudy pee and the following symptoms:20  

  • Flank pain or pain in one or the other side of the lower abdomen
  • Fever and chills
  • You notice pink urine or signs of blood in urine
  • Your urine has a foul smell

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources

  1. MayoClinic. Urine color.
  2. HealthUCSD. 10 colors that suggest urine trouble.
  3. NDT Plus. 2010 Feb; 3(1): 45–47.
  4. HighlandsEDU. Complete urinalysis.
  5. MedicineNet. Cloudy urine.
  6. Am Fam Physician. 2000 Sep 15;62(6):1333-1340.
  7. eMedicineHealth. Kidney infection.
  8. NIDDK. Symptoms & causes of kidney stones.
  9. Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. 2013 Aug; 13(3): 359–367.
  10. NHS. Cystitis.
  11. MayoClinic. Prostatitis.
  12. MedicineNet. Vaginitis.
  13. WebMD. Chlamydia.
  14. Urol Ann. 2014 Oct-Dec; 6(4): 340–345.
  15. MayoClinic. Retrograde ejaculation.
  16. NHS. Smelly urine.
  17. MayoClinic. Urine odor.
  18. AmericanPregnancy. Preeclampsia.
  19. NHS. Urinary tract infections in children.
  20. WebMD. Urinary tract infections.
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