Discovering that your urine smells like fish can raise many concerns about personal hygiene and overall health. While urine does have a normally subtle odor of its own, it may take on other pungent odors from time to time. This is common in both males and females and is possibly due to underlying conditions.
Fishy smelling urine can be the result of several conditions affecting the urinary tract. This may be the result of infection, metabolic disease, or simply a side effect of a medication.
Why your urine smells like fish
Urinary tract infection:
The urinary tract is a complex system that includes your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. These structures are involved in filtering the blood and expelling waste products as urine. Women are more likely to suffer from UTIs owing to their shorter urethras. Bacterial infection does not always result in symptoms, but when they do occur, they can include the following:
- Persistent urge to urinate
- Burning sensation during urination
- Frequent urination
- Cloudy urine
- Red, bright pink, or cola-colored urine – a sign of blood
- Pungent smelling urine – possibly fishy in nature
- Pelvic pain – especially in women
Related: Are urinary tract infections (UTIs) contagious?
Kidney stones (nephrolithiasis) are hard deposits made up of minerals and salts that form inside your kidneys. They often form when the urine becomes too concentrated, allowing minerals to crystallize and stick together. Kidney stones can be made of calcium and uric acid, with men being more commonly affected. Having kidney stones is often characterized by shifting, extreme pain in the lower back or groin region. Because urine is generally more concentrated, a fishy odor may be present. Patients suffering from kidney stones are often told to drink a lot of water, as it helps to flush the stones out of their system. The use of painkillers may also be implemented to help deal with this pain. Complicated cases of kidney stones can require surgical resection.
A condition characterized by inflammation of the vagina resulting in discharge, itching, and pain. Vaginitis can be caused by a bacterial, yeast, or parasite infection. When these infections affect the vagina, they proliferate, leading to symptoms. Vaginitis may occur due to reduced levels of estrogen after menopause, because of some types of skin disorders, or even become infected through sexual intercourse. Bacterial vaginosis is characterized by foul smelling, greyish white, and often fishy smelling discharge. Treatment will depend on the cause of infection, with bacterial infections being treated with antibiotics and yeast infections being treated by antifungals.
The prostate is a small gland found below the bladder in men. It is part of the male reproductive system and produces fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. When this gland becomes inflamed, it is called prostatitis, and it can lead to symptoms such as painful urination, groin pain, and flu-like symptoms.
Related: What your urine color and urine odor say about your health
Other causes reasons for fishy smelling urine:
Dehydration: Water is very important to the human body, and if you do not stay hydrated, your body will try and hold on to as much water as it can. This will cause your urine to become concentrated, making it appear darker and have a pungent ammonia or fishy smelly. Staying hydrated will often resolve this issue.
Medicines: Intake of antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin or amoxicillin may change urine odor to smell like fish or yeast. This can occur regardless of the length of time the medication is used. Also, several types of multivitamins can lead to fish-like smelly urine.
Pregnancy: Women who become pregnant have a higher chance of developing UTIs. Infections of the urinary tract can lead to foul-smelling urine that may be fish-like in nature. However, UTIs in pregnant women often go unnoticed and should be routinely checked for during doctor visits.
Beverages: The consumption of coffee or other caffeinated beverage can result in foul-smelling urine. Caffeine is known for being diuretic, which makes you urinate more often and can also lead to dehydration.
Liver abnormalities: Your liver is involved in detoxifying your blood, which is then excreted out of your system via your stool or your urine. Having liver disease may result in large quantities of bilirubin to get passed through the urine, causing urine to look darker and become smelly.
Diabetes: A metabolic condition characterized by high blood sugar levels and a lack of or underutilization of insulin. Diabetes causes glucose to be released in the urine, resulting in sweet, fishy-smelling urine. Proper treatment of diabetes will likely resolve this symptom.
Phenylketonuria: A metabolic disorder characterized by the inability of the body to break down the phenylalanine amino acid. This condition will lead sufferers to produce strong, putrid smelling urine that often has a mousy, fishy, or musty odor. Those diagnosed with phenylketonuria are advised to stay away from foods with high phenylalanine content, which are usually foods that contain protein.
Certain foods: The breakdown of certain foods may lead to your urine taking on their unique odor. This is commonly seen in those who consume asparagus, as it tends to release a sulfur byproduct that is released in the urine. Sulfur can make your urine smell fishy or rancid.
Trimethylaminuria: A genetic disorder characterized by body odor and a fish-like urine smell. Those with hormone imbalances, kidney or liver problems, and certain diets may also suffer from trimethylaminuria without having a genetic defect. Treatment often involves lifestyle and diet changes or the use of certain medication.
Preventing and treating urine that smells like fish
Having fish-like smelly urine is can be very distressing, as it is a definite sign that something is not normal. However, in the majority of cases, fishy smelling urine is due to something that can be treated or is a side effect of your diet or medication.
Following these tips will help get rid of your urine smell:
- Refrain from wearing tight clothing: Wearing tight clothing can promote the buildup of bacteria and possible reinfection of a UTI.
- Stay hydrated: The best way to keep the kidneys functioning efficiently and get rid of harmful toxins. It is recommended to drink about 12 glasses of water a day to achieve this.
- Cranberry juice: Loaded with antioxidants and antibacterial, this juice is a great choice to help with itching and urine odor that commonly occurs due to UTIs.
- Baking soda and water: Can help the kidneys make acidic urine, which can help replenish the acidic environment of the urinary tract. This helps to prevent infection. Mix about a half teaspoon of baking soda into four liters of warm water and drink throughout the day.
If you still have fishy smelling urine despite all your efforts to get rid of it, it is recommended to see a doctor about your condition. Your urine should not smell more pungent than usual.
Related: Proteinuria (protein in urine) treatment with statins and home remedies to stop chronic kidney disease