What Causes Urine Odor?

Medically Reviewed By Stacy Sampson, D.O.
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Everyone’s urine naturally has a unique odor. Sometimes, the odor of your urine may seem stronger than usual. This may not be a cause for concern. However, it might be due to an underlying condition. This article will discuss common issues and health conditions that cause urine odor. It will also talk about how asparagus relates to urine odor. It will cover treatment for the underlying causes and when to contact a doctor for urine odor. Finally, it will provide tips and healthy habits for urine health.

Common issues that cause urine odor

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Urine naturally has some odor that is unique to each individual. This slight, ammonia-like smell is often so mild that you may not even notice it. The odor becoming stronger or more noticeable may indicate an underlying health concern.

Dehydration

Dehydration may be the most common cause of urine odor. When you become dehydrated, the ammonia concentration in your urine increases. This causes the odor to become stronger and more apparent.

There is no set rule for how much water you should drink daily to prevent dehydration. This varies from person to person based on overall health and daily activity levels. However, drinking 91 to 125 ounces (oz) of water per day is a good average.

Read more about dehydration.

Vitamins and medications

Certain vitamins and medications can alter the odor of your urine.

These vitamins and medications may include:

  • vitamins B and D
  • sulfonamide antibiotics
  • certain diabetes medications, such as Diabeta
  • certain rheumatoid arthritis medications, such as Azulfidine

Medical conditions that cause urine odor

An increase in urine odor may indicate certain underlying medical conditions.

Yeast infection

Vaginal candidiasis (yeast infection)is a fungal infection in the vaginal region that results from yeast overgrowth. Generally, vaginal discharge causes odor if you have a yeast infection. However, this discharge can mix with your urine and make it difficult to tell where the odor is coming from.

Read more about yeast infections.

Urinary tract infection

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) result from bacteria that travel to your bladder and cause an infection. Common symptoms of a UTI include foul-smelling urine, cloudy urine, and burning or discomfort when you urinate. Antibiotics are typically the most common and effective treatment for UTIs.

Read more about urinary tract infections.

Kidney stones

Kidney stones are hard objects that form from chemicals in your urine. Kidney stones vary in size. The larger a stone is, the more likely you are to experience symptoms. Symptoms of kidney stones include:

Treatment for kidney stones usually involves passing them on your own. To do this, staying hydrated can help you urinate more frequently. If the kidney stones are too large to pass, they may require surgery.

Read more about kidney stones.

Untreated diabetes

Untreated diabetes can cause sugar in your urine, which can make your urine smell sweet. People without diabetes do not typically have sugar in their urine. If you notice a sweet smell in your urine, contact your doctor.

Read more about diabetes.

Asparagus and urine odor

Asparagus is one of the most common foods that can affect the odor of your urine. Asparagus contains asparagusic acid, which is most likely why your urine smells after eating it. When you eat asparagus, you are ingesting this acid. It then goes into your bloodstream and eventually into your urine.

Most people agree on the sulfur-like smell resulting from consuming asparagus. However, some cannot smell it. According to a 2016 study, some people have genetic variants that can alter their ability to smell asparagus. People with these variants may be less sensitive to the smell or unable to smell it entirely.

Other foods that have a similar effect on the smell of your urine include:

  • fish
  • onion
  • garlic

Treatment for urine odor

Treatment for urine odor depends on the underlying cause. Your doctor may recommend a prescription or over-the-counter antifungal medication for yeast infections. UTIs require antibiotics.

Kidney stones typically pass through your urine independently if you drink lots of fluids. However, larger stones may require surgery. A sweet smell in your urine due to diabetes will most likely resolve after treatment to manage the condition.

If the urine odor resulting from certain foods bothers you, avoid consuming those foods. You can avoid the smell resulting from dehydration by staying hydrated. Drink at least 91–125 oz of water daily to ensure you are properly hydrated.

When to see a doctor for urine odor

If you notice an increased odor when you urinate that you cannot pinpoint the cause of, contact your doctor. It is also important to contact your doctor if you notice a change in urine odor alongside other symptoms.

Symptoms alongside urine odor you should tell your doctor about include:

  • burning or discomfort when you urinate
  • needing to urinate more frequently than usual
  • having difficulty urinating
  • having unusual discharge
  • itching in your genital area
  • developing severe pain in either side of your back

Tips for healthy urine habits

You can promote healthy urine habits by doing the following:

  • Try to urinate every 3–4 hours. Go when you need to, and do not hold it unless absolutely necessary.
  • Try to relax while urinating. This relaxes your bladder muscles, making it easier to go.
  • Be sure to take the time to fully empty your bladder.
  • Urinate after sexual activity.
  • Exercise regularly and maintain a moderate weight.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and eat a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Wear underwear and loose clothing made from cotton or other breathable materials.
  • Limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol.
  • Quit or avoid smoking.

Summary

Urine naturally has a light odor that is unique to each individual. Typically, this odor is so mild that it is not noticeable. However, an increase or change in your urine’s smell may be due to an underlying issue.

Common issues that can cause urine odor include dehydration and certain vitamins or medications. Medical conditions that can cause urine odor include vaginal yeast infections, UTIs, and kidney stones.

Foods such as asparagus, fish, and garlic, can also cause a strong smell in your urine.

If you notice a change in the odor of your urine, or it occurs alongside symptoms like itching or discharge, contact your doctor.

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Medical Reviewer: Stacy Sampson, D.O.
Last Review Date: 2022 Oct 12
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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