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What Does Cloudy Urine Mean?

urine sample

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  • There are multiple reasons why your urine is cloudy, ranging from certain diseases and conditions to bodily changes and even dietary habits
  • Hormonal changes in a pregnant woman’s body can cause increased vaginal discharge production and release of cloudy urine
  • If your child or toddler expels cloudy urine, talk to a doctor immediately as this may be a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI)

Fluids, salts and waste products — they’re the three main components in the urine that your body excretes on a very frequent basis.1 While urine is typically straw-colored, especially when you’re fully hydrated, it’s possible that it may exhibit other colors or have an unusual smell. This explains why your urine’s transparency or turbidity may alert your doctors of possible disorders affecting your body.2

At one point, you may notice cloudy urine, which may look like a murky white substance. If you’re concerned and want to know what does having cloudy pee mean and why it occurs, continue reading this guide.

What Causes Cloudy Urine? Here Are 19 Possible Reasons

Research has indicated that there are many causes of cloudy urine among men and women. Here are several examples:

Change in urine pH levels — Cloudy urine can be caused by increased quantities of phosphates (phosphaturia) or urates (hyperoxaluria) that may cause pee to become alkaline or acidic,3 and eventually exhibit a cloudy white appearance.4

Increased cervical mucus production during ovulation in women — During ovulation, women’s bodies can produce more cervical mucus, which has a milky or creamy texture and looks white and stringy. The mucus can mix with the urine and give it a cloudy appearance. This is considered a normal phenomenon, but if the discharge released smells bad or has a different color, you should be checked by a doctor.5

Dehydration — Urologist Dr. Kimberly Cooper notes that dehydration can cause cloudy urine, due to overconcentration.6

Kidney stones — Cloudy urine is one of the many indicators of kidney stones, along with other symptoms like body pain (whether in the side or back, below the ribs, groin or abdomen), frequent urination, fever and chills.7

Urinary tract infections (UTIs)8Cloudy urine can be an indicator of UTIs, which are typically caused by Escherichia coli (E.coli) or gastrointestinal bacteria. People with UTIs can also experience pelvic pain, a burning feeling while peeing and an increased urge to urinate.9

Kidney infections — Also called pyelonephritis,10 kidney infections occur when UTI-causing bacteria move to either one or both of your kidneys. People with kidney infections may notice cloudy urine, and experience fever, chills, body pain (in the back, side, groin or abdomen), nausea or vomiting.11

Chyluria — This occurs when lymphatic fluid, which helps carry fat and protein around the body and promotes immune system health, leaks into the kidneys. Chyluria can be triggered by a parasite called Wuchereria Bancrofti, tumors, trauma or congenital lymphatic malformations, to name a few. You may feel pain while urinating, experience an increased need to urinate or notice blood in your urine.12,13

Yeast infections — Cloudy urine can occur when a yeast infection, which is usually caused by rapid growth of the Candida albicans fungus in the vagina, triggers development of thick, white and cottage cheese-like discharge that can mix with your urine.

Bacterial vaginosis — This refers to vaginal inflammation mainly triggered by a bacterial imbalance. Bacterial vaginosis causes the appearance of a thin and grayish-white discharge that can mix with the urine and make it look cloudy.14

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis — These STDs can cause cloudy urine because they increase production of gray or white vaginal discharge, which can mix with urine that passes above the vaginal opening.15

Retrograde ejaculation — Improper contraction of the muscle or sphincter responsible for preventing the entry of semen into the bladder may cause retrograde ejaculation. This condition is mainly characterized by semen entering the bladder instead of being released from the body. Men who experience retrograde ejaculation may notice cloudy urine or urine with traces of semen in it.

Prostatitis or prostate gland inflammation — One of the signs of this disease, which is typically caused by a bacterial infection, is discharge from the urethra that can mix with your urine and make it appear cloudy.16

Treatments for prostate cancer — Men who undergo radical prostatectomy, open prostatectomy, laparoscopic prostatectomy or da Vinci prostatectomy17 to help address prostate cancer may expel cloudy urine. This can be linked to the catheter utilized during the healing process.18

Late stages of prostate cancer — According to Mount Sinai Medical Center, an obstructed bladder can accumulate blood or sediment, and it’s possible that they’ll be released from the body with your urine and take on a cloudy appearance.19

Diabetes — Cloudy urine can be an indicator of either Type 1 or 2 diabetes, although there are other major symptoms you need to look out for. This disease is known to lead to kidney damage and cause difficulties in filtering your urine properly and absorbing waste material. Because of this, your urine may possess other substances like sugars and take on a cloudy appearance.20

Pyuria or elevated amounts of white blood cells (WBCs)21 Urine may sometimes be cloudy because of pyuria, a condition characterized by increased amounts of WBCs.

They can be released into the urine because of conditions22 like UTI, gonorrhea, interstitial cystitis, tuberculosis, pneumonia and kidney disease, or even because of drugs like diuretics, penicillin and other antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors like omeprazole or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen.23

Lipiduria or traces of lipids in your urine — Authors of a 2015 Radiology Case Reports article noted that lipiduria, although rare, may cause the release of cloudy urine.24

Enterovesical fistula — An enterovesical fistula refers to the presence of an opening between the bladder and the bowel.25 According to a 2017 International Journal of Surgery Case Reports study, enterovesical fistulas usually appear because of diseases like diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease or colorectal cancer, and can be indicated by signs like cloudy urine and abdominal distension.26

Hyperuricosuria or having high urinary uric acid levels27This can develop if you frequently consume a diet rich in high-purine foods28 like anchovies, shellfish, sardines, organ meats, peas, spinach, asparagus, mushroom, yeast and alcoholic beverages.29,30

Aside from these causes, contamination by other materials, such as sediment from a distended bladder,31 red blood cells (RBCs),32 fats, mucus, epithelial cells or pus,33 may result in cloudy urine. Metabolic problems may also trigger this cause.

Cloudy urine is more common in women than men mainly because of women’s body structure. For instance, UTIs that can result in cloudy urine are caused by E.coli bacteria, a bacteria strain that can easily form in the female bladder, but also which can be easily transferred from the rectum to the urethra.34

What Does It Mean if You Notice Cloudy Urine During a Pregnancy?

If you expel cloudy urine during your pregnancy but don’t notice other symptoms, there’s no need to be alarmed. Cloudy pee is quite common during pregnancy because women are likely to undergo hormonal changes that can trigger an increase in vaginal discharge that may then combine with urine35 and give their pee a cloudy appearance.

However, if the discharge looks darker or comes with symptoms like difficulty peeing or a burning sensation, this may indicate a UTI that must checked by a doctor.36,37 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 8 percent of pregnant women are susceptible to UTIs38 that are mainly caused by bacteria strains like Enterobacteriaceae, E. coli, Klebsiella pneumonia, coagulase-negative Staphylococcus, Staphylococcus aureus and group B streptococci.39

Cloudy Urine in Children

Cloudy urine may also manifest in toddlers and children, and can indicate any of the following infections:

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) — Cloudy urine is one of the many indicators of UTIs, which can be classified either as an upper UTI (affecting the kidneys) or a lower UTI (affecting the urethra).40 WebMD notes that before they turn 5 years old, around 8 percent of girls and 2 percent of boys may already be diagnosed with UTIs.

The risk for this infection is higher in girls because of their anatomy — they tend to have shorter urethras that allow bacteria from the anal region to enter either the vagina or urethra.41

Bladder or kidney infection — Some bacteria strains in the bowel can trigger an infection in a child’s body, especially when they aren’t able to combat the pathogen/s properly. Urine that’s cloudy, dark, bloody or foul-smelling is one of the many symptoms of this condition.42

If you see cloudy urine in a child’s potty or on their diaper, talk to a physician immediately. Informing a physician about it may help you determine if your child or toddler is suffering from an infection, and allow you to implement the most ideal strategies that’ll address the condition.

How Your Urine’s Odor Helps Determine Your Health Status

You may scrunch your nose at the thought of smelling your urine, but it’s actually another way for you to learn more about your health, apart from just looking at its color. If you notice a sweet-smelling, fruity or yeasty scent in your urine, it’d be wise to talk to a doctor immediately.

It’s possible that sweet-smelling urine can signal uncontrolled diabetes, while pee that exhibits a fruity or yeasty scent may indicate that you have maple syrup urine disease (MSUD). A metabolic disorder that affects at least 1 in 185,000 infants globally, MSUD prevents a child’s body from metabolizing amino acids properly, resulting in other symptoms like vomiting, lethargy, abnormal movements and delayed development.43

MSUD also happens to be genetic and may be passed on to your children.44 Because of this genetic link, testing has been suggested to check if you or your child has this condition.

Talk to Your Doctor if Your Cloudy Urine Comes With Other Symptoms

Cloudy urine is a health issue that can occur in men and women of all ages. Although in some cases it’s not alarming since they occur because of normal body changes, cloudy urine may sometimes indicate the presence of an underlying infection or disease.

If your pee has become cloudy and it comes with other symptoms, talk to your doctor as soon as you can. Addressing cloudy urine entails knowing the condition responsible for triggering it. If it’s caused by a medical issue, ask your doctor how you can address the condition to bring your health back to normal and return your urine’s natural color.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Cloudy Urine

Q: Is cloudy urine more common in men?

A: Cloudy urine is more prevalent in women compared to men. Female bodies are structured in such a way that they’re more likely to be affected with a bacterial infection that can lead to cloudy urine.45

Q: Is cloudy urine always a sign of infection?

A: Cloudy urine can occur even without an infection. Possible causes include urine pH level changes,46,47,48 and more.

Q: What does it mean if you release cloudy urine while pregnant?

A: Cloudy urine is quite common during a pregnancy, mainly because of the hormonal changes during this period, such as increased production of vaginal discharge. This substance can combine with urine, and once it’s released from the body, make it look cloudy.49

Should a pregnant woman experience difficulties while urinating or feel a burning sensation alongside cloudy urine, this can be a sign of a UTI, which will need to be checked by a doctor.

Q: Is cloudy urine a sign of pregnancy?

A: Releasing cloudy urine may indicate pregnancy,50 but take note that there are other major signs you should watch out for if you think you’re expecting.

Q: Is cloudy urine normal among children?

A: Talk to a physician if you notice cloudy urine in your child’s diaper or their potty, as this may be a symptom of either a UTI or bladder or kidney infection.51,52

Q: How can you clear cloudy urine naturally?

A: There are various ways for you to treat or address cloudy urine, and they depend on the reason why this health issue occurs in the first place. If cloudy urine appears because of an underlying infection, talk to your doctor to determine its severity, and learn about the most effective holistic and nondrug methods you can utilize to address the condition.

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