If you’ve ever had cloudy urine, you’ve no doubt wondered what’s causing the cloudiness and may have even been troubled by this odd symptom.
After all, is cloudy urine a sign of cancer or some other serious problem?
I interviewed a urologist who specializes in urinary tract infections to uncover all the information you need to know about cloudy urine, such as when it’s time to see a doctor, and what you can do to check if your cloudy urine might mean a viral infection.
It’s important to keep tabs on the color of your urine, so that you’re on top of any changes in the color or appearance, such as cloudy or a murky quality.
I asked questions to Elizabeth Kavaler, MD, a board certified urologist with a private practice in New York City. Dr. Kavaler is the author of “A Seat in the Aisle, Please! The Essential Guide to Urinary Tract Problems in Women.”
What is the most common cause of cloudy urine?
Dr. Kavaler: Cloudy urine is most commonly caused by inflammation in the bladder. White blood cells, mucous, and debris can build up if the bladder is irritated or inflamed.
The most common cause of bladder inflammation is a urinary tract infection.
Other causes include food irritants, environmental irritants and chemical irritants.
What other variables can cause this symptom?
Dr. Kavaler: Cloudy urine can be a transient event. If irritating foods, like citrus or spices, are ingested, they can cause bladder irritation which will lead to inflammation and cloudy urine.
Once the food is eliminated, the cloudiness will resolve. That is true for viral cystitis, which is when the bladder is irritated by a viral syndrome.
If you have a cold and the urine is cloudy, the urine will clear when the cold clears up.
Certainly, there are people who, upon seeing the cloudy appearance one day, start fearing cancer somewhere, maybe bladder cancer. Can this ever be a symptom of cancer?
Dr. Kavaler: Cloudy urine is not an indication of cancer. Cancer is indicated by blood in the urine; either obvious blood or microscopic blood that is found on a urine test performed in the physician’s office.
If cloudy urine is present without symptoms of frequency, urgency or discomfort, it does not need to be addressed.
(The murkiness, in and of itself, is not a notable symptom of a more serious bladder condition.)
Can certain foods cause the murkiness?
Dr. Kavaler: Certain foods, such as spicy foods, citrus and caffeine can irritate the bladder lining and lead to inflammation. The result may be cloudy urine.
Although not dangerous, the inflammation can lead to irritating symptoms.
What causes urinary tract infections?
Dr. Kavaler: Contrary to what some believe, urinary tract infections (UTIs) are not caused by “extra” bacteria getting into the bladder, but by the bacteria that does not get out.
A person with a healthy urine flow should be able to flush all bacteria out of the bladder normally each time they urinate.
A strong and steady flow naturally cleanses the urinary tract and surrounding area of unwanted bacteria.
However, if something is inhibiting normal urination, that’s when bacteria can be trapped inside the urinary tract, leading to a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Can a UTI resolve on its own?
Dr. Kavaler: No, a urinary tract infection can not resolve on its own. It is important to see a doctor as soon as possible.
Your healthcare provider will take a urine culture so that the proper course of antibiotic therapy may be prescribed to cure the urinary tract infection (UTI).
If you are prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs), you should also discuss a uroflow exam (which measures the flow and force of your urine stream) with your physician, as well as talk to your doctor about taking Cystex as a preventative measure.
Drink plenty of water to flush the system and take the over-the-counter (OTC) medication Cystex, as this medicine can help ease the pain of the infection and will not interfere with the antibiotic.
Antibiotics begin fighting the infection immediately, but they can’t stop all the symptoms right away, such as the pain in your bladder.
When should you see a doctor regarding cloudy appearance?
Dr. Kavaler: If there is cloudy urine with symptoms, see a practitioner. If there is only cloudy urine, there is unlikely to be a problem, but it is worth mentioning to your physician if it persists.
The physician can be sure that nothing is wrong, such as the beginnings of an infection.
Be sure to also alert your doctor to any changes in the way that you urinate (i.e. flow, pain, and urgency).
Dr. Kavaler adds that if you only have cloudiness and the physician does not find a problem, there is nothing to be worried about.