I know it can be an uncomfortable topic to discuss among friends. Believe it or not it's even tough for some patients to discuss it with their trusted physicians. But understanding your urinary habits and perhaps even more importantly – when those habits change – is essential for ensuring healthy bladder function now and in the future.
One of the most commonly asked questions of urologists is: what color is “normal” for urine? The easy answer is: a wide spectrum of shades can be normal based on the individual and his or her unique health circumstances. For example: pale or clear urine usually means that you're well hydrated or that you are taking a diuretic supplement that his stimulating your bladder to void frequently. In some people, eating a large serving of carrots is enough to turn their urine orange for a period of time. And while varying shades of yellow or orange can all signal a healthy bladder, there are some colors that can be cause for concern and thus, warrant a trip to the doctor. These include pink or red, which can signal blood in the urine. From a simple infection to cancer, bloody urine is never normal and needs to be immediately evaluated by a urological expert.
In addition to taking note of your urine's color, the odor it gives off should also be something you pay particular attention to. For most people, urine should be fairly odorless or should have only a slight ammonia-like smell. If you suddenly notice any pungency to it, these could be signs of infection or urinary stones, especially if it is accompanied by a cloudy appearance. That warrants a trip to your doctor for evaluation. Some people with a certain inherited gene can have different-smelling urine when they eat asparagus, though this doesn't happen for everyone. And others may notice an interesting odor when they've consumed coffee.
Perhaps most often discussed, especially among women who've been through childbirth is urinary frequency. Again, there can be a wide range of "normal" when it comes to the number of times an individual urinates in a day, but 6-8 trips to the bathroom in a 24-hour period is typical. That number can change dramatically in either direction if you've significantly increased or decreased your fluid intake. However, a constant urge to urinate with no marked increase in fluid intake can be a sign of Overactive Bladder syndrome or another issue and should be discussed with your urologist for evaluation and potential treatment.
Though there is a wide range of "normal" when it comes to urinary color, odor and frequency, be sure to make note of any sudden changes in what seems normal for you. And always practice preventive urinary health measures like not holding your urine when you need to "go" and drinking enough water when you're thirsty. Though they may seem like small steps, they can go a long way toward keeping your bladder and urinary tract healthy for years to come.