What causes smelly urine?

smelly urineSmelly urine can be caused by many different factors, but most of them are non-threatening and can be addressed with simple solutions. While most of the times, you can overlook the smelly odor of your urine (especially if it’s a temporary incidence), in some cases smelly urine is actually indicative of a serious health problem.

Being aware of what can possibly cause smelly urine can help you address the issue effectively and give you peace of mind.

Causes of foul-smelling urine


As mentioned, there are numerous causes for smelly urine, ranging in severity. For the most part, there’s nothing threatening about having a stronger odor to your urine and the condition can be easily resolved. Here are some factors that can make your urine smell.

Urinary tract infection: Bacteria in the urinary tract can cause an infection along with smelly urine. Other symptoms include higher frequency of urination, burning while urinating, and pain.

Vaginitis: Vaginal infections can lead to smelly urine. Bacteria, yeast, and sexually transmitted diseases can cause vaginal discharge, painful urination, itchiness, and discomfort during sex.

Prostatitis: Men who suffer from prostatitis can develop bladder infections, which can cause smelly urine along with abdominal pain, urine urgency, back pain, and groin pain.

Kidney stones: Smelly urine, especially if it’s pinkish in color, could be an indication of kidney stones. You will also experience severe pain where your kidneys are located.

Dehydration: If you haven’t had enough water, your urine will be darker in color and smell foul.

Foods, drinks, and vitamin supplements: Many foods, beverages, and natural supplements can change the smell of your urine. Prominent examples include asparagus, B vitamins, and even caffeine.

Medications: If you are taking antibiotics or medications derived from mold, you may notice a change in the smell of your urine. Multivitamins, too, can have similar effects.

Liver problems: The liver is responsible for filtering and eliminating waste. If the liver is unable to do so properly, urine can be foul-smelling and very dark in color.

Diabetes: High blood sugar accumulates in urine and is then released. The urine then has a slightly sweet smell and is exceptionally sticky.

Pregnancy: Hormone changes associated with pregnancy can increase the risk of bladder infections and vaginal discharge, both of which can produce smelly urine.

Phenylketonuria: This is an inherited condition that affects the metabolism. Patients cannot process phenylalanine in the diet, resulting in foul-smelling urine.

Maple syrup disease: This is a genetic disorder in which your urine smells like maple syrup. In this condition, certain dietary proteins cannot be broken down. If a patient does not change their diet accordingly to adjust to their disease, it can result in brain damage or even death.

Bladder fistula: This is an abnormal connection between the intestines and the bladder.

Cloudy urine with odor: People with high blood ketone levels that are on a low-carb diet or perhaps fasting, as well as those who have difficulty controlling diabetes can have urine with an odor. With ketone, a sweet, acetone-like odor in the urine can be detected.

Cloudy urine with odor can also be a sign of dehydration, especially if it smells like ammonia. If you have a urinary tract infection or when you are pregnant, your cloudy urine can also be foul-smelling.

Treatment options for smelly urine


drinking waterTreatment for smelly urine depends on the cause. Treatment can be as simple as drinking more water or treating the underlying condition that is causing the odor, such as kidney stones, diabetes, or liver problems.

When to see a doctor for smelly urine

You should see a doctor for your smelly urine, if you begin to experience other symptoms aside from smelly urine, such as pain, changes in urination habits, or problem managing diabetes.

Related: Proteinuria (protein in urine) causes, complications, and symptoms

Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.



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