Why Is Your Urine Brown?

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on September 23, 2023
4 min read

If your urine is brown, your first thought is probably, "I need to drink more water." It's true that dehydration can sometimes be the cause. But if you drink extra fluid and your pee is still brown, then something else is going on.

A number of different things, including some medical conditions, can lead to brown urine. While some are harmless, others need a doctor's attention.

In some cases, bloody urine can look brown.

Doctors call bloody urine hematuria, and there are many different causes. These include:

If you think your urine is brown due to blood, and you are not menstruating, you should have a doctor check it out.

Brown urine is one of the first and most common signs of hepatitis, which is another name for liver inflammation. There's more than one type of this disease, including hepatitis A, B, and C.

When you have it, your liver can't clean your blood properly. This can lead to a buildup of an orange-yellow substance called bilirubin in your blood and urine, and can turn urine brown.

If hepatitis is behind your brown urine, you might also have symptoms like:

If you think you could have hepatitis, call your doctor. The treatment for the condition depends on the type of the disease you have.

Brown urine can also be a symptom of cirrhosis. That is the name for scars on the liver that form after you've been living for years with hepatitis or other types of liver disease.

Early cirrhosis might not cause symptoms, but in advanced stages, it can cause brown urine as well as:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Poor memory
  • Water retention in your belly or legs
  • Yellow skin or eyes
  • Muscle weakness

Brown urine, especially along with yellow skin or eyes, can also be a sign of many other liver problems. If you have these symptoms, see your doctor.

Some kidney diseases can cause brown urine. For example, a kidney infection called post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis (PSGN) can turn your pee a reddish-brown color. This infection happens after strep throat and most often in children.

If kidney disease is the cause of your brown urine, you might also have symptoms like:

  • Swelling in your face, around your eyes, and in your hands and feet
  • Less of a need to pee, or less urine when you do go
  • Feeling tired

You should see a doctor if you have symptoms. Doctors will diagnose the cause and suggest the right treatment.

In rare cases, intense exercise can cause muscle cells to burst and leak into the bloodstream. This condition is called rhabdomyolysis, or "rhabdo," and it can turn your urine brown.

If you have brown urine because of rhabdo, you might also notice:

Rhabdo can cause serious kidney damage and can be life-threatening. If you think you have it, get medical attention.

One form of anemia called "hemolytic anemia" destroys red blood cells. This can turn your urine brown

Some people get this type of anemia from their parents. Others develop it after another condition, such as autoimmune disorders like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or ulcerative colitis.

Besides brown urine, hemolytic anemia can cause symptoms like:

  • Abnormally pale skin
  • Yellow skin or eyes
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty doing physical activities
  • Faster heart rate

If you have these symptoms, see a doctor. Treatment depends on your health and the cause of the anemia.

Melanoma can sometimes cause skin pigment to leak into the bloodstream, though it's rare. This can lead to brown urine.

The more common signs of melanoma are changes to moles. You should see a doctor for any skin abnormality that is growing or changing quickly and doesn't go away.

Some ticks carry a bacteria that causes a serious infection called babesiosis. One of the symptoms is dark urine.

Other symptoms include:

Ticks in the Upper Midwest and Northeastern U.S. are most likely to carry the bacteria that causes babesiosis.

Babesiosis doesn't make most people sick enough to need treatment, but there are drugs that can help if you need. If you get sick after a tick bite, see a doctor.

Some prescription drugs can cause brown urine.

These include:

The color should go back to normal after you've finished your prescription.

Fava beans, rhubarb, and aloe can cause your urine to turn brown if you eat a lot of them in a short period of time. Beets can cause red urine. Your pee will lighten up when the food is out of your system.