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Causes of Cloudy Urine
in Men and Women

Author:   Peter Sedesse MD

Kidney function and the appearance of normal urine

There are many different causes of cloudy urine, including infections and conditions of the urinary tract as well as other health problems elsewhere in the body.  Cloudy urine is not a disease, it is a symptom, so the most important thing is to find the underlying cause of the cloudy urine.  Your kidneys remove waste material from your blood, and then use water to rinse the waste from the body.  In normal situations, this waste material is water-soluble and in low enough concentrations that urine does not appear cloudy.

Before we begin talking about the causes of cloudy water, let´s talk about the appearance of normal urine.  Urine should have a light yellow or straw color, but if the urine is in a clear container, you should be able to see clearly through it similar to if you were looking through a glass of water.  Any obscurement is considered abnormal.  The color of the urine should be light.  Dark, but clear, urine usually indicates dehydration, but can be an indication of another medical condition.  Finally, if your urine appears cloudy in the toilet, there is the possibility that a cleaning chemical, or in females, a vaginal discharge may be causing the cloudy appearance in the toilet.   A cloudy appearance to urine should be verified by urinating in a clean, clear cup.

Non-medical causes of cloudy urine in men and women

There are a few situations where cloudy urine does not indicate a medical condition, the most usual of these is when semen is found in urine.  Shortly after ejaculation, sperm and other glandular secretions involved in reproduction can remain remain in the urinary tract of men.  These fluids are then removed with the first urination which can produce a cloudy urine appearance in men.  Vaginal discharges can also sometimes make their way into urine samples, which can cause a cloudy urine appearance in women.  Neither of these are a cause of concern.  If you are worried, take a mid-stream sample of your urine.  What this means is that you wait until a few seconds after you begin to urinate to collect the sample.

Cloudy urine caused by urinary tract infections UTIs

The most common medical cause of cloudy urine is an infection or inflammation of the urinary tract.  The best example of this is the common urinary tract infection (UTI) caused by bacteria.  The bacteria enters the body from the outside and attempts to grow back the urinary tract to the kidneys.  The process of urination, along with the bodies immune system inhibit it´s growth.  The bacteria, it´s waste products, along with chemicals used by the immune system to fight the bacteria all are rinsed from the body during urination and will cause cloudy urine.  In most situation the other symptoms of a UTI might include painful urination, an itching feeling, or frequent urination.  Urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotics.

If the infection reaches the bladder, it can cause the bladder to become infected (referred to as cystitis).  This is slightly more serious and can cause difficulty urinating, which can lead to other health problems.  Finally, if the bacterial infection reaches all the way to the kidneys, this can pose serious health concerns.  A kidney infection is usually very painful and can result in bloody and severely cloudy urine.  This condition is extremely serious as it can lead to permanent kidney damage.

Kidney stones and cloudy urine

Kidney stones are also another major cause of cloudy urine.  Crystals form in the kidneys and are then washed down the urinary tract.  These crystals have sharp edges that tear the walls of the urinary tract.  As your body attempts to repair this damage,  different materials make their way into the urinary tract, which are then rinsed away with urine and produce cloudy urine.  Urine from a person with kidney stones will also usually have a reddish tint to it along with being cloudy.. this is because blood has entered the urinary tract.  Kidney stones produce very intense pain, which is usually the first symptom.. 

STDs can cause cloudy urine in both men and women

Aside from common urinary tract infections, many sexually transmitted diseases will also cause cloudy urine in men and women.  Gonorrhea and Trich cause a severe immunological response from the body and urine will quickly become clouded by molecules used by the body to fight the infection and waste material from this battle.  Untreated STDs can cause major health issues including infertility in women, which is one of the reasons why cloudy urine should be taken seriously as a first symptom

Cloudy urine can also be an early symptom of a major health situation including heart disease, diabetes and kidney failure.  Each of these conditions results in excess proteins accumulating in the kidneys which are then removed by urine.

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