Harvard Health Letter

Red, brown, green: Urine colors and what they might mean

Departures from the familiar yellow are often harmless but should be discussed with a doctor.

Most of the time, urine is a pale yellow color because it contains urochrome, one of the substances produced when hemoglobin gets broken down. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that sticks to oxygen so it can be ferried around the body.

Occasionally, though, urine turns a very different color. Men may notice the change as their urine enters the toilet bowl or urinal. Women may be more likely to observe it after wiping. Seeing red or orange instead of the usual yellow can be alarming, especially if there are also symptoms like a burning sensation or pain with urination. The alarm may be justified: an abnormal urine color can be an early sign of a serious medical condition. To be on the safe side, it should be discussed with a doctor or another clinician.

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