Why your pee may smell funny

Thinking about the smell of your urine isn’t something most people spend a lot of time doing. It’s one of those things you probably don’t even notice –until something smells strange.

If you’ve been to the bathroom and found that your urine smells odd, it may be a sign that you are ignoring a serious health condition. There are a number of things that may cause your pee to smell funny, some more serious than others.

Dehydration
Water is essential in most of your bodily functions, so there can be a number of risks associated with serious dehydration. Dark and smelly urine can be an early sign. Urine is one way that your body rids itself of waste products. When you are dehydrated there will be less fluid in your urine, meaning there is a higher concentration of waste products such as ammonia that can make it smell funny.

Sexually transmitted infections
Some STIs can cause smelly urine. Chlamydia, gonorrhoea and trichomoniasis can cause urethritis, the inflammation of the urethra, which can cause a build-up of bacteria, causing smelly urine. Other STIs that cause irritation around the genitals may cause urine to pick up smells when you pee.

Urinary tract infections
If you have a UTI you’ll probably be making more trips to the bathroom than normal, and you may find that your urine smells. This is because these infections can cause bacteria to build up in the urinary tract, namely the bladder and the urethra. Some of these micro-organisms –usually bacteria called Escherichia coli (E. coli) –are flushed out with your urine, causing it to smell funny. UTIs are common but can become serious. See a doctor if symptoms do not ease on their own as antibiotics may be necessary.

Kidney stones
Cloudy and smelly urine that may be red, pink or brown in colour is a sign of kidney stones. Sulphur is found in some kidney stones made of cystine, which may cause your urine to smell of rotten eggs. Kidney stones are painful and may require medical attention and even surgery. Seek medical attention if you have discoloured and smelly urine along with other symptoms.

Some foods
If you’ve been eating asparagus you may notice your urine smells strange. When your body breaks down asparagus it produces asparagusic acid, a sulphur biproduct. Some other foods can also cause our pee to smell funny, such as fish, garlic, onions or drinking coffee.

Diabetes
If you are undiagnosed or have diabetes and are not treating the condition, you may find that your urine smells sweet or fruity. If you have a high blood sugar content, which your body can’t process, it may try to get rid of it through your urine, causing it to smell sweet. Ketonuria is a chemical produced by your body when it burns fat for energy, rather than glucose. This chemical can also cause sweet smelling urine. Other symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst and urination, blurred vision, weight loss, nausea, mood swings, skin infections, slow healing wounds and feeling lethargic. If you experience more than one of these symptoms, consult your doctor.

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Written by Liv Gardiner

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