What Causes Urine to Smell Bad?

Have you ever entered a restroom and right away an acrid smell rushed through you as you breathed? I guess most of us have. Sometimes, it’s even our own urine that smells bad, and this isn’t uncommon. Urine odor occurs in all age groups, populations, and regardless of sex. However, healthy urine generally does not exude a foul odor. So what causes urine to smell bad?

A strong urine odor, or an unusual stench, may be caused by benign conditions – conditions that are neither harmful nor caused by a disease. Such is taking certain medications or eating a selection of food that characteristically affects the odor of urine with the distinct smell of ketones. A typical example of this is penicillin and asparagus. Asparagus passes through the kidneys and into the urine, bringing with it a powerful smell. Aside from ketones, other substances such as phosphates and nitrates can color the urine and give it a particular stink.

On the other hand, urine that persistently smells may already be due to a potentially more harmful condition. This could be an underlying disorder or disease that affects the urinary tract and/or other organs of other body systems. The smell of urine can be a symptom of an infection or inflammation that is present in the urinary tract (bladder, kidney, urethra, and ureters).

Cystitis or bladder infection is a common condition that negatively influences the smell of urine. The same is true for prostatitis, an inflammation or infection of the prostate gland, and for pyelonephritis or kidney infection. Urethritis, an inflammation from the pipe that connects the bladder to the outside, is also a probable cause of urine odor when there aren’t any germs or bacteria in the urinary tract. And sometimes, urine odor occurs with accompanying symptoms such as bloody urine, cloudy urine, and/or a burning sensation during urination.

Urine odor could also be caused by other diseases and conditions such as diabetes, liver failure, maple syrup urine disease, rectal fistula, and dehydration. In poorly treated diabetes, a sweet or sugary kind of urine odor is produced. A sweet caramel-like urine odor is also emitted when there is maple syrup urine disease, while liver failure gives off a musty urine odor.

Like other symptoms, urine odor also holds probable complications of the underlying disorder, disease or condition. Serious complications associated with urine odor may be a diabetic coma, ketoacidosis, septicemia, urosepsis, severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, and shock.

On the brighter side, all these plus the stench of urine could be more easily avoided by having a healthier lifestyle. With the help of a blander diet and simply a lot more water (if it is necessary, drink up to 3 liters per day) you will have more dilute urine with a less noticeable odor.

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