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Reasons For Cloudy Urine: Understanding Cloudy Urine Symptoms

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Last updated March 15, 2021

Cloudy urine questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your cloudy urine.

Anything that your kidney filters & excretes via the urinary tract can cause cloudy urine. Urinary tract infections, certain antibiotics, dehydration, and STDs can cause cloudy urine with or without pain.

Cloudy urine questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your cloudy urine.

Cloudy urine symptom checker

Cloudy urine symptoms

The body eliminates excess water and waste through urine. Normal urine can take on a broad spectrum of hues but should be transparent or clear. However, urine is typically yellow in color and depending on the amount of water in the urine, this yellow color can range from pale (diluted) to deep gold or amber (concentrated).

Even with this broad range of normal colors, many different processes can change the color of urine from yellow to dark brown or even pink or maroon. Most of these processes are benign, but processes that produce cloudy urine (non-transparent) are usually a sign of an underlying problem and should always be followed up with your physician.

Common accompanying symptoms of cloudy urine

If you notice cloudy urine, take note of other symptoms you may be experiencing, such as:

Cloudy urine causes

The process of urination requires multiple parts of the body the kidneys filter the urine, the ureters carry urine from the kidney to the bladder where urine is stored, and finally, the urethra takes urine from the bladder and expels it from the body. All of these parts form the urinary tract.

Anything that your kidney filters and excretes via the urinary tract can affect the color of the urine. Urine can change color depending on the amount of water your body excretes, pigments present in food, systemic processes that cause bodily breakdown, and even the speed in which your urine hits the toilet.

Make an appointment with your physician in order to discuss all the possibilities that could be contributing to your symptoms.

Medical Conditions

Underlying medical conditions can contribute to cloudy urine, such as:

  • Infection: Many types of outside bacteria can easily enter the body via the urinary tract, including sexually transmitted bacteria such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. Urinary tract infections often cause cloudy urine in addition to pain upon urination (dysuria) and itching/discomfort in the genital area.
  • Systemic disease: Diseases that affect the kidney and liver can seriously affect the processes that filter and excrete urine. Such conditions can include cancer, hepatitis, and cirrhosis. Often these conditions result in excess amounts of protein being filtered out of the body into the urine. The protein can react with the air to create a foamy and cloudy appearance of the urine. These conditions can also cause swelling (edema) which is a sign of fluid buildup due to a failure of these organs' functioning.


Certain antibiotics used to treat urinary tract infections can cause cloudy urine. The change in color is usually benign and due to the pigment in the medications that are filtered out into the urine.

Cloudy urine questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your cloudy urine.

Cloudy urine symptom checker


Severe dehydration and insufficient water intake can also turn urine cloudy or foamy. This is your body's way of telling you that it is dehydrated and needs water.

This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Non-specific change in urine

Urine is the product of the kidneys filtering the blood from waste products and excess water. Depending on what you eat, the color and odor of your urine can change. Beets are known to turn urine pink or red, which can be mistaken for blood. Asparagus sometimes gives a distinctive smell. Medication can also change smell and color of your urine.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: a change in either color of odor of urine, frequent urination

Symptoms that always occur with non-specific change in urine: a change in either color of odor of urine

Symptoms that never occur with non-specific change in urine:painful urination, bright red (bloody) urine, fever, frequent urination

Urgency: Wait and watch

Urinary tract infection

A urinary tract infection is an infection of the urinary tract, which includes the kidneys, bladder, and urethra. Urinary tract infections are usually caused by infections by fecal bacteria.

Symptoms of urinary tract infections include pain with urination (dysuria), ...

Non-specific painful urination (dysuria)

Dysuria is a symptom rather than a condition in itself, and simply means "painful or difficult urination."

The most common cause is infection with Escherichia coli bacteria, which is carried in fecal matter. Dysuria may also be due to viral infection, trauma, bladder stones, scarring following a sexually transmitted disease, or other reasons.

Most susceptible are women, especially younger and sexually active women. Post-menopausal women are often affected due to dryness and other changes in the vaginal tissues.

Older men may also have dysuria due to an enlarged, inflamed prostate gland.

Symptoms include pain, discomfort, and burning on urination. There may also be urinary frequency or urgency.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, with questions regarding all medications and supplements. Physical examination and urinalysis will be done. A pelvic exam may be done for women and a rectal prostate exam done for men.

Treatment usually involves a course of antibiotics and sometimes an over-the-counter urinary tract pain reliever.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: painful urination, vaginal discharge

Symptoms that always occur with non-specific painful urination (dysuria): painful urination

Symptoms that never occur with non-specific painful urination (dysuria): pelvis pain, bright red (bloody) urine, pink/blood-tinged urine, fever, vaginal discharge, abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea or vomiting

Urgency: Self-treatment

Chlamydia (male)

Chlamydia in men is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs. The disease is caused by the Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria.

A man can get chlamydia through having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected partner, either male or female.

Symptoms of chlamydia in men include discharge from the penis; burning sensation on urination; and sometimes pain and swelling in the testicles. The disease can spread to the rectum and cause rectal pain, bleeding, and discharge. It may affect the eyes and cause bacterial conjunctivitis.

It is important to get treatment for these symptoms, as chlamydia in men can lead to sterility. It also leaves a person more susceptible to contracting HIV.

Diagnosis is made through urine test and/or a swab from the end of the penis.

Treatment involves a course of antibiotics, usually by mouth, to kill the bacteria. Be sure to finish all of the medication as directed.

It is possible to be re-infected with chlamydia even after having the disease, so it still very important to practice safe sex.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: testicle pain, sudden urgency to urinate, painful urination, frequent urination, fluid leaking

Urgency: Primary care doctor


Dehydration means the body does not have enough water to carry out its normal processes.

Most susceptible to serious dehydration are young children with fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. In adults, some medications increase urination and can lead to dehydration. Anyone exercising vigorously, especially in hot weather, can quickly become dehydrated.

Symptoms include extreme thirst; dry mouth; infrequent, dark-colored urine; dizziness; and confusion. Young children may have sunken eyes, cheeks, and soft spot on top of the skull.

Severe dehydration is a serious medical emergency that can lead to heat stroke, kidney damage, seizures, coma, and death. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Diagnosis is made through blood tests and urine tests.

Mild dehydration can be treated simply by drinking extra water, or water with electrolytes such as sports drinks. More serious cases may be hospitalized for intravenous fluids.

It's important for anyone who is outside in hot weather, or who is ill, to drink extra fluids even before feeling thirsty as thirst is not always a reliable guide.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, dizziness, vomiting or diarrhea, racing heart beat, being severely ill

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Kidney stone

A kidney stone is a stone made up of various possible materials that forms in the kidneys. Factors that increase the risk of forming kidney stones include high levels of calcium, uric acid, and oxalate in the urine, low levels of citrate in the urine, abnormal urine pH, low urine volume, certain urin...

Cloudy urine questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your cloudy urine.

Cloudy urine symptom checker

Cloudy urine treatments and relief

Several home remedies and lifestyle changes may help improve your symptoms; however, if your symptoms persist, make an appointment to see your physician.

At-home treatments

Many causes of cloudy urine can be stopped or prevented with simple lifestyle changes.

  • Take note of your medications: If your cloudy urine is the result of medications you are taking, talk to your physician about your options. He or she may discontinue your medication or suggest a similar alternative.
  • Drink more water: Insufficient fluid intake can cause cloudy urine in severe cases. Drinking more water daily is a simple way to combat this symptom.

What to expect at your appointment

Your physician will perform the following diagnostic tests in order to make the proper diagnosis. Treatment will be diagnosis-dependent and your physician will discuss all of the appropriate options.

  • Urinalysis: This involves taking a urine sample in order to look for red blood cells, levels of protein, and excreted minerals and pigments in the urine that may indicate underlying kidney or urinary tract problems. Your physician may also check for white blood cells and bacteria in your urine that may be causing infection [1].
  • Blood tests: Certain blood tests (creatinine and BUN or blood urea nitrogen) can measure the level of waste products that build up in your bloodstream when your kidneys are damaged and not filtering properly. Your physician may also check for elevated levels of liver enzymes that indicate liver damage.

Questions your doctor may ask about cloudy urine

  • Do you feel pain when you urinate?
  • Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Have you experienced any nausea?

Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.

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Dr. Rothschild has been a faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He currently practices as a hospitalist at Newton Wellesley Hospital. In 1978, Dr. Rothschild received his MD at the Medical College of Wisconsin and trained in internal medicine followed by a fellowship in critical care medicine. He also received an MP...
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  1. Simerville JA, Maxted WC, Pahira JJ. Urinalysis: A comprehensive review. American Family Physician. 2005;71(6):1153-1162. AAFP Link
  2. Sobol J. Urine - abnormal color. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated August 26, 2017. MedlinePlus Link
  3. Cloudy urine. Mount Sinai Medical Center. MSMC Link
  4. Bono MJ, Reygaert WC. Urinary tract infection. StatPearls. Updated October 12, 2018. NCBI Link
  5. Protein in urine. American Kidney Fund. AKF Link