Why is my urine yellow

Unlike most of the other colors like red, pink, orange, grey (cloudy) or brown, the color yellow is actually normal for human urine to exhibit. Although the urine of a fit individual would most likely be nearly clear or transparent, it will nonetheless, have a slight yellow tinge to it and that is perfectly healthy. The yellow tinge in human urine is observed due to the presence of urobilin in it, which is a yellow linear tetrapyrrole. Urobilin comes from bilirubin, after it is broken down in the liver; which is originally derived after breaking down heme (combination of hemoglobin, myoglobin, and the cytochromes). Apart from the urobilin, all the other components of urine such as salts, water, urea, etc. are colorless and that is why only the yellow color of the urochrome is visible. However, the concentration and texture of this yellow color is significant and can signify the presence of a condition or disease at times. There are various reasons as to why one’s urine may start to appear different or more concentrated than normal and some of them can be dangerous as well. Below you will find some instances where an exceptional yellow color in urine should be read as a symptom, rather than normal.

What causes urine to turn yellow?

1. Dehydration –- Dehydration is a condition in which the body loses so much of its fluids that its level of hydration goes down below healthy levels. In reaction to this crisis, the entire body tries to reserve fluids in any way it can. The kidneys also try to save water by reducing water concentration in urine. As explained earlier, the only waste material in our urine that has any color is urochrome and it is yellow. If the water content of urine decreases, then naturally, the concentration of urine increases; since urochrome is the only colored material in it, urine assumes a darker shade of yellow in the absence of sufficient water. Dehydration in the long term may even kill a person, but can be easily managed by ensuring enough water is drunk with necessary salts and glucose in it. Dehydration in its mild form will not kill someone and the person may not even feel thirsty, but it will make that person susceptible to all kinds of diseases, especially the ones involving the urinary system (urinary tract, kidneys). It is for this reason that the appearance of dark yellow urine should be followed by regular intake of sufficient water (roughly 8 standard glasses of water) to rule out the possibility of dehydration and all the complications that are associated with it.

2. Foods -– Asparagus is a vegetable that is quite renowned for making one’s urine assume a brighter and deeper shade of yellow than otherwise common. However, its other side-effect is more famous and that is smelly urine. It should be noted though that these effects of the vegetable are only applicable to about half the population and therefore, some may never experience them at all. It is the inability of some people to break down the amino acid known as asparagine and found in asparagus, which creates the side-effects. It is completely harmless and one should never stop eating asparagus because of this, as it is rich in necessary vitamins and folic acid. Another example is beet, which may also contribute to the appearance of dark yellow urine.

yellow urine

3. Medicines –- Medicines are quite efficient in being the reason behind the change of color in one’s urine and sometimes, they can even deepen the natural yellow hue found in human urine by a great degree. Although vitamin C and riboflavin (vitamin B2) is known to be responsible for a darker shade of yellow in urine, in extreme cases, the color of urine can also change to orange. In fact, vitamin B can brighten one’s urine color all the way up to a point where the person may exhibit neon yellow or green urine. This is something that generally is observed when the dosage of vitamin B is too high and the kidneys filter out the excess vitamins via urination. It may not be harmful if the yellow urine caused by vitamin B consumption is observed temporarily, but if it continues then one should be careful as excess vitamin B over a long period of time may lead to vitamin B toxicity.

4. Jaundice -– Although it is not really a disease, jaundice is a set of symptoms that accompany many diseases, especially the ones that affect the liver and the pancreas. Jaundice actually originates from the French term for yellow (jaune), so one can guess that it is indeed closely involved with the color yellow. Apart from yellowing of urine, people suffering from jaundice will start to appear yellow all over if the bilirubin count keeps on increasing (more than 1.8 mg/dL). The skin, the sclera and other mucous membranes of the patient are all affected with this color along with his/her urine. Bilirubin is the compound responsible for the discoloration here and it is released after blood cells are broken down. Jaundice indicates hyperbilirubinemia, or in other words an overdose of bilirubin in blood. The diseases that jaundice can be a sign of are hepatitis, cirrhosis, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, bile duct disease, fatty liver and leptospirosis among others.

5. Hemolytic anemia -– Hemolytic anemia is an inherited form of anemia which may be harmless or lethal, depending upon its severity. It is basically a condition which causes premature destruction of red blood cells and may be either extravascular or intravascular. As the disease destroys a lot of blood cells on a regular basis, the patient’s urine contains an abnormally high count of the compounds that are released after RBCs are broken down (hemoglobin, bilirubin and hemosiderin); which of course, gives the urine a noticeably darker shade of yellow than usual. Hemolytic anemia is a very serious condition for certain patients and can even cause one’s heart or lungs to collapse. Other than the appearance of dark yellow urine it is characterized by symptoms like pale skin, fatigue, shortness of breath, feeling cold and spleen enlargement.

Other reasons

There are also a few other conditions that might make one’s urine appear far darker than we are used to seeing, but the ones mentioned above, more or less cover the major and more common reasons. Nonetheless, at times, urinary tract infections, kidney malfunctions, hematuria, etc. may also cause one’s urine to attain a deep shade of yellow.

What can you do about it?

The first thing to do in case you notice an abnormally dark or bright colored urine is to figure out whether or not it is the result of something you ate or some medicine you took. Even if it is dehydration, you can manage it yourself by properly hydrating the body. If you are able to rule out the harmless or manageable reasons and the dark yellow color persists, then it is time to visit a physician and take the diagnostics necessary to determine the actual disease that is responsible (yellow urine is only a symptom). One should always note down the accompanying symptoms, if any, as that would hasten the diagnostic process. Once the disease is determined, treatment specific to that condition should follow.