Everything you eliminate from the body has a typical smell we call Sui Generis.
It is usually not a pleasing smell, but it isn’t putrid or nauseating, either.
Everything from sweat to feces has a particular smell that we can often detect as normal or not.
In most cases, we are right because we get used to the typical smell of our bodies.
So, if you ever had the sensation that your urine smells bad, maybe there’s something to look at.
In this article, you will find a few likely reasons why your urine has a strong or foul smell.
What is smelly urine?
Even laboratories often do not agree on the term and when a sample is considered Sui Generis or not. Thus, it is even more difficult for patients to describe malodorous urine accurately. But as mentioned above, we are often right about it because we are used to the usual smell and appearance of our urine.
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7 Possible Causes
The typical smell of the urine is given by ammonia, a substance we eliminate in the urine and the feces. However, other substances could change urine odor depending on the cause. If you have this problem, the doctor might want to rule out the following:
If you’re not drinking enough water, the urine becomes concentrated. A higher concentration of ammonia in the urine causes a more pungent smell. You could realize that you’re dehydrated if you also have a dry mouth and constant headaches.
2. Metabolites from certain foods
Some food components are disposed of in the urine after using them. We should highlight asparagus, which has asparagusic acid.
It is broken down in the body into sulfur-containing substances, causing asparagus urine. If you ever went to natural hot springs and smelled something funny, it is probably sulfur.
You get a similar odor in your urine after eating asparagus. Other medications that change the odor include vitamin B and sulfonamide antibiotics (1).
3. Urinary tract infections (UTI)
When you rule out the reasons mentioned above, the first medical condition that comes to mind is an infection. The infecting bacteria cause an unpleasant urine smell. The body tries to fight the infection, and you might also get pus in the urine.
Altogether, this changes the appearance and smell, and it is sometimes quite noticeable. Urinary tract infections are usually accompanied by a burning pain when you pee and an increase in urinary frequency (2).
If you have diabetes and receive treatment, ask your doctor about the possibility that one of them is changing the smell of the urine. It sometimes happens, and you’re not meant to discontinue the medication because of this side effect.
5. Kidney failure
A severe infection in the kidneys causes foul-smelling urine. The same happens when the kidneys do not function normally.
In such cases, the urine becomes concentrated once again, similar to what occurs in dehydration. Additionally, kidney dysfunction may lead to the proliferation of bacteria or increase the protein content in the urine (4).
6. Metabolic disorders
There’s a rare metabolic disorder caused by a gene alteration called trimethylaminuria. It is also known as fish malodor syndrome. The smell of the urine is particularly objectionable, and it is caused by an increase in trimethylamine in the blood (4).
7. Liver dysfunction
There are many changes in metabolism in a patient with liver problems. The liver changes many substances and prepares them for elimination.
Chronic dysfunction may feature a characteristic odor called fetor hepaticus. It is evident in the breath and urine of the patient as a result of an increase in methyl mercaptan and dimethyl disulfide (5).
When to see a doctor
As you can see, the list above is arranged in order of severity. Thus, there’s no reason to visit the doctor if you find out you’re not drinking enough water. But if you drink more water and the problem persists, one of the first diagnoses to rule out is a urinary infection.
Bladder infections (cystitis) are uncommon in men. In most cases, they are accompanied by something else, such as problems in the urinary tract (as in vesicoureteral reflux) or kidney stones. It is essential to get tested, diagnosed, and treated correctly in such cases.
So, if you have more urinary symptoms, visit your doctor as soon as possible. They include burning pain in the urine, increased urinary frequency, bloody or cloudy urine, urinary urgency, fever, and back pain in case of kidney infection.
Also, keep in mind that having a strong smell in the urine for a long time is not normal. You might have a type of organ failure that is still undetected and may worsen over time. So, talking to your doctor about it can be the first step to prevent complications.
Smelly pee is one of the most common urine problems we encounter in urinary tract infections. Normal urine color and smell are called Sui Generis. It is not a pleasing odor, but people don’t usually describe it as strong or nauseating.
The cause of smelly urine can be a concentration of ammonia in case of dehydration. It can be an active immune response and bacterial metabolites in case of infection.
We also have metabolic, liver, and kidney diseases that trigger changes in urine odor. They are not very common but can be severe and sometimes life-threatening. It is also noticeable that men do not usually suffer from urinary infections, and when they do, it is usually accompanied by something else.
Thus, talking to your doctor is fundamental if the urine odor does not improve after drinking more water and if you have additional symptoms such as frequent urination and urinary urgency.