The kidneys filter waste products out of the bloodstream and pass them through the urethra for excretion. The exact contents of this waste, which we call urine, can range from byproducts of digestion to hormones.
Urine is typically transparent yellow or pale. Small changes in the composition of urine can affect its color. It is not usually a cause for concern to see small changes in the appearance of urine.
Sometimes, however, a change of urine color can indicate that something is wrong in the body. The darker or more discoloured the urine becomes, the more likely it is to be a problem. In more severe cases, urine discoloration will occur with other symptoms.
This article will discuss some possible causes of brown urine.
Brown urine is a symptom of dehydration.
Dehydration occurs when the body lacks enough water to function properly.
A person can become dehydrated for many reasons, including excessive sweating, urinating, and not drinking enough fluids.
Darker or brown urine is a symptom of dehydration. In fact, dehydration is the most common reason for dark urine to occur, but it is usually easy to treat.
Treating dehydration involves replacing the lost fluids and electrolytes, which people can usually do at home.
In mild cases, this will involve drinking water. In moderate and more severe cases, an oral rehydration solution may be necessary. This is an over-the-counter drink that will replace fluids and electrolytes. Oral rehydration solutions are available for purchase online.
Examples include Hydralyte, which is available in the form of an effervescent tablet that people can add to a glass or bottle of water.
In the most severe cases of dehydration, hospital treatment may be necessary. This will involve the use of an intravenous (IV) drip to replace lost fluids.
It is rare for dehydration to lead to any lasting damage. In most cases, rehydration will rapidly relieve any symptoms.
2. Foods or medications
It is possible for certain foods and medications to cause the urine to change color. They can cause urine to become dark and appear brown.
Foods that can cause dark urine include:
- some foods that contain vitamin A or B
In this case, the change will be temporary, and it will not pose any health risks.
Medications that can turn urine dark include:
- antimalarial drugs
- muscle relaxants
This is a side effect of medication and is not usually harmful. A doctor can advise on whether to change medication or take another course of action for dealing with the problem. However, this may be unnecessary.
3. Liver disease
Several liver conditions can lead to brown urine.
Hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver, usually from a viral infection. This can cause urine to become darker and appear brown. Antiviral medications are the primary treatment for some types of viral hepatitis.
Without proper treatment, hepatitis can cause scarring and permanent damage to the liver. This is cirrhosis, a serious condition without a known cure. It can also cause dark or brown urine.
Treatments for cirrhosis aim to address the underlying cause, such as treating viral hepatitis.
Hematuria can cause the urine to appear brown.
Hematuria refers to blood in the urine. It causes urine to become pink, red, or brown.
Hematuria occurs when blood enters the urinary tract. This can happen for many different reasons, such as:
The treatments for these conditions vary depending on their cause.
Rhabdomyolysis is a serious condition that can result from severe muscle injury. The death of muscle fibers causes their cells to empty into the bloodstream.
Muscle proteins enter the kidneys, which will excrete them as urine. This causes the urine to turn brown or dark red.
Immediate hospital treatment is necessary to treat rhabdomyolysis. Treatment can include:
- an IV drip to remove fluids
- medications such as diuretics
In mild cases, it may be possible to treat rhabdomyolysis at home with rest and rehydration.
Rhabdomyolysis can severely damage the kidneys over time, so early treatment is vital. With effective and early treatment, it is possible to prevent lasting damage.
6. Hemolytic anemia
Hemolytic anemia is an autoimmune disorder wherein the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy red blood cells in the body. This can cause a breakdown of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body.
The hemoglobin can enter the urinary tract and cause urine to turn brown.
This is a serious condition that will require medical treatment. The treatments for hemolytic anemia include:
- immunosuppressant drugs
- surgery to remove the spleen
The outlook will vary from case to case, and it depends on the cause and whether a person receives effective and early treatment.
A number of things, including diet, some medications, dehydration, and several conditions, can cause urine to become brown.
Treatment depends on what is causing the urine to darken. However, it will not always be necessary to seek treatment.
Anyone with concerns about the color of their urine should consider seeing their doctor.
It is important for those experiencing brown urine that does not return to normal to seek medical care.