Disease diagnosis relies on the analysis of various body fluids and secretions and urine and its color can play a vital role in this process. Urine is made of excess liquid and other wastes that are flushed out from the blood by the kidneys. A healthy person produces between one and two liters of urine everyday and the quantity depends on the food and liquid ingested and other health factors.
Even to the naked eye, urine can be seen in a range of different colors ranging from a pale yellow to dark amber. According to Dr. Daniel Shoskes, a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic, the color is largely determined by the amount of water and other liquids drunk in a given period of time. He is a consultant for an online chart called The Color of Pee that clearly explains the color variations and their causes. Dr. Shoskes says, “What the chart sort of helps with is first of all with all the variations of yellow, from very pale to very dark. It’s a measure of hydration. So certainly the more you drink, the closer to water it’s going to look like.”
According to this study, urine that is colorless may indicate too much hydration and honey or amber-colored urine may be indicative of inadequate hydration. The best shade is the color of pale straw or a transparent yellow. It is normal for urine to be darker in the morning because the body is more dehydrated after six to eight hours of zero liquid intake during sleep. Reddish or pink-tinted urine is also no cause for alarm if the person has eaten beets, rhubarb, blackberries or blueberries. Certain medicines such as rifampin, amitriptyline and indomethacin and some food colors can also cause a harmless change in urine color.
When it is not the result of food or medicine, any variation from a normal color can make urine a significant factor in disease diagnosis. It can indicate many conditions, most of which are harmless but some of which are potentially very serious. Taking note of the color could mean the difference between just drinking a few more or less glasses of water, or getting a doctor’s appointment.
Dark colored urine is referenced by the following colors:
Root beer or cola colored
At the less significant range of problems, urine that is orange or amber could signal severe dehydration, kidney stones or a urinary tract infection. The latter will also be accompanied with pain or a burning sensation while urinating and can be confirmed with a urine sample analysis. At a more serious end of the spectrum, significantly brown colored or pinkish urine can signify a liver condition. Liver disease responds very positively to early diagnosis so getting medical attention based on the color of the person’s urine can be potentially life-saving. Other symptoms of liver failure include a distended abdomen, nausea and fatigue and easily bruising or bleeding.
Another red flag in disease diagnosis with urine color is reddish or a light cola shade. This can indicate the presence of blood which is usually the sign of a serious problem. Dr. Shoskes says that most urinary cancers such as that of the bladder, kidneys, prostate and ureter present with urine in the blood.
Other conditions that can cause dark cola colored urine include hepatitis, cancer or blockage of the bile duct and pancreatic cancer. Dark urine when accompanied with very light stools can be the result of excessive levels of bilirubin in the body, which causes jaundice. Jaundice is caused by the liver’s inability to properly break down bilirubin and is also indicated by a yellowish tinge on the skin and in the whites of the eyes. From simple dehydration to cancer, liver failure and jaundice, the list of diseases that can be diagnosed by watching for changes in urine color is both impressive and important.
By Grace Stephen