Why is my urine cloudy?

Cloudy urine: what color, flakes, and smell mean

Cloudy urine and a pungent urine odor can indicate a urinary tract infection such as cystitis and should be taken seriously as a signal.
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Usually urine is clear like water, slightly yellow in color and has hardly any smell. The liquid is an excretion product of the body: our kidneys filter around 180 liters of urine from the blood plasma every day and extract the ingredients that the body can use.

What remains is the terminal urine, which is excreted via the ureter and bladder. This urine consists mainly of water, the slight yellow coloration of the urine comes from the so-called urochromes. These are yellow dyes. In turn, they are degradation products of the bile pigment bilirubin. In addition, urine contains tiny amounts of substances such as:

  • uric acid
  • urea
  • Creatinine
  • Salts
  • Hormones

Cloudy urine with flakes and / or a pungent odor

However, sometimes the urine looks and smells differently. It becomes cloudy, develops an unpleasant, pungent odor, and flakes can also fall out. This means that the composition of the urine is no longer correct and the urine contains metabolic products that should not normally be in it. The urine contains one or more of the following substances in high concentrations:

  • Protein - this happens when the kidneys can no longer properly filter urine.
  • White blood cells - white blood cells act to fight inflammation.
  • Bacteria, mucus and pus particles - are flushed out with the urine when there is inflammation.
  • Blood cells - enter the urine as part of certain infectious diseases such as kidney inflammation and other inflammatory processes, making the urine darker and slightly brown in color.

Cloudy urine - the most common causes

But why does the composition of the urine change? There are a number of triggers for this. Some are rather harmless. For example, certain foods can easily discolor the urine, for example beetroot or citrus fruits. After urinating several times, the phenomenon has disappeared. Even with insufficient fluid intake, the urine thickens, so to speak, and turns dark yellow to orange. Drinking enough immediately will make up for it. Usually, however, the following diseases are possible causes of cloudy urine, flakes in the urine and a strong odor:

What cloudy urine can mean in men

There are also gender-specific causes of cloudy urine that only affect men or women. In men, for example, the urine can change if the prostate is inflamed (prostatitis).


The benign enlargement of the prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia, BPH for short) also affects the appearance and smell of the urine: The enlarged prostate hinders the flow of urine from the bladder. There is residual urine in it, which allows bacteria to multiply quickly.

Cloudy urine - mostly a problem for women

It is undisputed that the symptom of cloudy urine is particularly common in women. The explanation: Because of their short urethra, women are particularly likely to get a bladder infection and thus changed urine as a symptom of the infection.

Bacteria, for example from the intestine, migrate through the urethral opening into the urethra and quickly get into the bladder. Women who have already had a cystitis are therefore particularly vigilant if their urine looks and smells different than usual - because it can be the first sign of a urinary tract infection.

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Cloudy urine during pregnancy

The composition of the urine can also change during pregnancy. For example, a strong yellow color and a sweet smell indicate the pregnancy hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) down. It is made in the placenta. Many pregnancy tests take advantage of this by using a urine sample to determine the amount of hCG in the urine.

There are a number of explanations for cloudy urine during pregnancy. The cause can be harmless and result from a change in diet. Many women eat more and more dairy products during pregnancy. Both factors can change the urine somewhat.

Bladder infections, which affect many women especially in the last three months of pregnancy, are less harmless. Often the first signs of cystitis are cloudy urine, flakes in the urine or an unpleasant odor. Burning and painful urination are also common.

The urinary tract dilates due to the hormonal changes during pregnancy. This allows bacteria to rise faster into the bladder. Because urinary tract infections can lead to complications during pregnancy - such as premature birth - targeted treatment by the doctor is important.

The same applies to gestosis (preeclampsia or pregnancy poisoning). Blood sugar rises dangerously. This can also be shown by a high proportion of protein in the urine. This becomes clear through cloudiness. Pregnant women should therefore have any change in urine clarified by a doctor in order to avert serious consequences for themselves and the unborn child.

Cloudy urine - when to see a doctor and how to treat?

The symptom of cloudy urine can be harmless if, for example, it is caused by diet or if it only occurs for a short time. On the other hand, various diseases and changes in the body cause the cloudiness. You should always see a doctor if any of these signs occur:

  • The urine remains cloudy for more than three days.
  • You have severe pain when urinating.
  • The urine is reddish or slightly brown (blood in the urine).
  • You have a fever.
  • You have cramps.

With a urine test, the doctor can determine what is actually behind the symptom of cloudy urine. However, the laboratory examination, including the creation of a bacterial culture, takes several days. By then, however, treatment often begins - depending on what additional signs are present.

An example: If the cloudy urine is accompanied by a frequent urge to urinate and painful urination, in most cases it is a bladder infection.

However, if there is also blood in the patient's urine, the doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to prevent the urinary tract infection from rising to the kidney area.

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