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Urine odor

Urine odor refers to the smell from your urine. Urine odor varies. Most of the time, urine does not have a strong smell if you are healthy and drink plenty of fluids.

Causes

Most changes in urine odor are not a sign of disease and go away in time. Some foods and medicines, including vitamins, may affect your urine's odor. For example, eating asparagus causes a distinct urine odor.

Foul-smelling urine may be due to bacteria. 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.

Some conditions that can cause changes in urine odor include:

  • Bladder fistula
  • Bladder infection
  • Body is low on fluids (concentrated urine can smell like ammonia)
  • Poorly controlled diabetes (sweet smelling urine)
  • Liver failure
  • Ketonuria

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have signs of a urinary tract infection with abnormal urine odor. These include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Burning pain with urination
  • Back pain

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

You may have the following tests:

References

Landry DW, Bazari H. Approach to the patient with renal disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 114.

Riley RS, McPherson RA. Basic examination of urine. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2017:chap 28.

Review Date 8/26/2017

Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.