Urine is normally a clear to pale yellow color in a person who is well hydrated. Sometimes the urine may take on a much darker yellow hue. This is more likely to occur when we have not consumed enough fluids and are mildly dehydrated. Even this darker yellow color is considered somewhat normal. However, when urine is another color like orange then this is abnormal and more likely due to some disease or disorder.
Why is urine yellow or orange?
It is important to first understand why urine is a yellow color to then understand how it can be an abnormal color like orange. Urine is composed of water, waste substances like urea and excess electrolytes or other micronutrients that the body does not need. The kidneys produce urine by filtering blood and the kidney are responsible for regulating the fluid levels in the body.
Pale to Yellow
When urine is clear in color then it is usually a sign of sufficient hydration or even fluid overload (excessive fluid in the body). It is the kidney’s responsibility to normalize the water level in the body by passing out this fluid in the urine. When urine is a dark yellow color then it is usually a sign of insufficient hydration. Due to the excessively low fluid levels in the body, the kidneys attempt to save fluid by passing out less water in the urine.
The yellow color of urine is due to substances known as urobilin and urobilinogen. These substances are derived from the breakdown of red blood cells. Related substances (bilirubin) are also expelled in bile and are responsible for the characteristic brown color of feces (stercobilin). When the body cannot get rid of these substances, then it may be deposited in the skin to give it a yellowish hue which is referred to as jaundice.
How does urine turn orange?
The kidneys filter out wastes and excess substances from blood to pass it out in the urine. Therefore any waste or excess substance in the blood that has a naturally orange hue can cause the urine to turn orange. Furthermore the yellow color of urine can turn orange if it mixes with small quantities of blood (red). There are several reasons why blood may enter the urine and thereby cause the urine to take on an orange color.
Read more on red urine.
Identifying other symptoms can assist with reaching a final diagnosis to explain the cause of orange urine. However, orange urine may sometimes occur on its own with no other symptoms. Some of the possible urinary symptoms that may be seen with the various causes of orange urine includes:
- Burning urine or pain during urination.
- Large volume, small volume or no urine.
- Frequent urination.
- Blood in the urine or other substances like pus in the urine.
- Constant urge to urinate (tenesmus), even after urinating.
There are many other urinary problems that may also occur. Sometimes there are other symptoms that do not appear to be related to the urinary system, like fever or lower abdominal pain.
Causes of Orange Urine
There are many possible causes of orange urine and it should always be investigated by a medical professional. Orange urine may not be serious. It may not be a cause for concern if it occurs as one isolated incident with no other symptoms. However, when orange urine is recurring or constant and is accompanied by other symptoms then medical investigation is necessary. Diagnostic tests like a urine dipstick or urine analysis may indicate problems that are not evident, like small amounts of blood in the urine or protein in the urine.
Foods and Supplements
Several foods and nutritional supplements with a strong orange color can cause discoloration of the urine. These natural pigments and artificial dyes tend to only discolor the urine if consumed in large quantities.
- Carotenoid-rich foods like carrots.
- Beta-carotene supplements.
- Other foods or supplements with orange pigments/dyes. Similarly red colorants may also contribute to the orange hue when it mixes with the natural yellow color of urine.
Certain drugs can also lead to orange discoloration of the urine in some cases. The following drugs are more likely to be responsible for this orange discoloration.
Several diseases of the urinary system (kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra) can cause orange urine. This may be due to blood entering the urine but the change in color may also occur with pus, drugs and bacterial byproducts tainting the urine.
- Cystitis is a bladder infection. It is one of the most commonly affected areas in an urinary tract infection (UTI) and often involves the urethra as well.
- Pyelonephritis is a kidney infection. This is less common than a bladder infection. The bacteria may reach the kidney through the bloodstream or spread upwards from the bladder.
- Urinary stones are hard masses that form in the urinary system. It can occur in the kidneys (kidney stone) or bladder (bladder stone) and then may pass into the ureter or urethra, respectively.
- Kidney diseases of various types, like kidney failure as well as cancers such as kidney cancer or bladder cancer, may also alter the color of urine.
There are several other diseases that can affect urine production, composition and even color which may the cause the urine to appear orange.
- Dehydration affects the color of urine. With less water in the urine, the color of the urine may be concentrated and depending on other factors it may appear a yellow to orange color.
- Prostate diseases in men can also affect the color of urine. This includes prostatitis and even prostate cancer where blood may enter the urine.
- Liver diseases can affect the pigment levels in the urine and result in orange urine. This includes hepatitis, liver failure and liver cancer.
Sometimes urine may be tainted with blood or other substances that was not expelled through the urethra. For example, menstrual blood can sometimes taint urine and cause it to turn an orange color although the urine was untainted in the bladder and urethra.
Last updated on 14 April 2019.