Urine odor

Definition

Urine odor refers to the scent of the fluid excreted during urination. Urine odor varies. However, if you drink enough fluids and are otherwise healthy, urine does not usually have a strong smell.

Alternative Names

Considerations

Changes in urine odor are usually temporary. Such changes are not always a sign of disease. Certain foods and medicines, including vitamins, may affect your urine's odor. For example, asparagus causes a characteristic urine odor due to its content of asparagine, an amino acid.

However, foul-smelling urine may be due to bacteria, such as those responsible for urinary tract infections. Sweet-smelling urine may be a sign of uncontrolled diabetes or a rare disease of metabolism. Liver disease and certain metabolic disorders may cause musty-smelling urine.

Common Causes

Abnormal urine odor may indicate:

  • Bladder fistula
  • Dehydration (concentrated urine can have an ammonia-like scent)
  • Liver failure
  • Ketonuria
  • Maple sugar urine disease (very rare)
  • Phenylketonuria (rare)
  • Urinary tract infection

Home Care

Call your health care provider if

Contact your health care provider if you have fever, chills, burning pain with urination, or back pain along with an abnormal urine odor. These may be signs of a urinary tract infection.

What to expect at your health care provider's office

The following tests may be performed:

  • Urinalysis
  • Urine culture

References

Landry DW, Bazari H. Approach to the patient with renal disease. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 116.

Israni AK, Kasiske BL. Laboratory assessment of kidney disease: clearance, urinalysis, and kidney biopsy. In: Brenner BM, ed. Brenner and Rector's The Kidney. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 23.