dark urine

Brown Urine


Healthgrades Editorial Staff

What is brown urine?

Urine is produced by your kidneys as they filter water and wastes out of your blood. From the kidneys, urine drains down paired tubes called ureters into your bladder for storage. When it is time to urinate, urine flows from your bladder through your urethra to the outside. Changes in urine color can be related to the concentration of the urine, substances filtered into the urine, or conditions of the urinary tract.

Concentrated urine can have a brownish appearance, as can blood in your urine. Urine concentration is determined by the relative amounts of water and salts in your bloodstream. Your kidneys react to dehydration (loss of body fluids and electrolytes, which can be life threatening when severe and untreated) by holding on to more water and making your urine more concentrated. In the case of dehydration, increasing fluid intake often leads to lightening of the urine unless your fluid intake is not enough to keep up with ongoing fluid losses.

Blood in the urine can be caused by bleeding anywhere in the urinary tract and may result from inflammation, infection, kidney disease or failure, kidney stones, injury, cancer, or bleeding disorders. Blood in the urine may turn it brown, red or pink, or may only be visible under the microscope. Brownish blood tends to be from the kidneys. Blood from the vagina or in the stool can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from blood in the urine.

A variety of foods and medications can cause changes in the color of your urine. Foods that can turn the urine brown include fava beans, berries, rhubarb, beets, and certain food colorings. Some antimalarial drugs, antibiotics, laxatives, and muscle relaxants can cause urine to turn brown. Diseases of the liver, porphyria (condition caused by an enzyme deficiency that can cause abdominal pain and neurologic changes), and muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis) can also cause the urine to turn brown.

Brown discoloration of the urine may result from eating certain foods, taking particular medications, or becoming dehydrated. If your brown urine is persistent despite increasing your fluid intake and avoiding potential culprit foods or medications, seek prompt medical care. Some of the conditions that cause brown urine can be serious, or even life threatening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for abdominal, pelvic, or lower back pain that can be severe; change in level of consciousness or alertness; change in mental status or sudden behavior change; high fever (higher than 101 Fahrenheit); not producing any urine; seizure; or serious injury.

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Sep 25, 2016

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Medical References

  1. Urine - abnormal color. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
  2. Urine - bloody. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

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