Tea-colored Urine: 5 Main Causes & When to Worry

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The color of our urine can offer valuable information regarding our overall health.

Tea-colored or cola-colored urine refers to light or dark brown urine, similar to the shade of tea.

This article will delve deeper into the common factors, medical conditions, and treatments associated with tea-colored urine. So, let’s get started and learn more about this frequently overlooked health indicator.

The key chemicals that pass in urine and cause brown or tea-colored urine are summarized in the table below:

Chemical SubstanceCause of Brown or Tea-Colored Urine in Health and Disease
UrobilinProduced in healthy individuals due to heme breakdown and gives urine its normal yellow color. Darker urine can result from dehydration as urobilin becomes more concentrated in severe dehydration.
Hematuria (RBC in urine)Occurs when red blood cells are present in the urine, which can happen due to various conditions, such as urinary tract infections, Glomerulonephritis, kidney stones, strenuous sports, exercise, or bladder cancer. Hematuria can cause the urine to appear pink, red, or brown.
Certain medicationsSome medications, such as metronidazole, nitrofurantoin, and senna, can cause dark brown or tea-colored urine.
Certain foodsFoods like fava beans, rhubarb, and aloe can darken the urine.
PorphyrinsInherited metabolic disorders called porphyrias cause the buildup of porphyrins, leading to dark brown or tea-colored urine.
Hemoglobin (Free hemoglobin in the urine).Hemoglobinuria occurs when there is an excess of free hemoglobin in the urine, usually due to the breakdown of red blood cells, as with massive burns, crushing injuries, severe kidney infections, PNH, and malaria. This can result in dark brown urine.
MyoglobinMyoglobinuria is the presence of myoglobin, a muscle protein, in the urine. It can occur due to muscle injury or a condition called rhabdomyolysis, resulting in reddish-brown or tea-colored urine.
BilirubinAn increased level of bilirubin in the urine, which can occur due to liver disease or other issues with bilirubin metabolism, can cause the urine to appear dark brown.
MelaninThe presence of melanin or melanin precursors in the urine can result in dark brown or black urine. Melanuria can occur in patients with malignant melanoma, a type of skin cancer.

Common causes of tea-colored urine

1. Severe dehydration (concentrated brown urine):

Dehydration often leads to concentrated urine, making it look very dark yellow, brown, or even tea-colored.

This happens because your body retains more urobilin, a waste product usually diluted by water. Severe dehydration can result from:

  • Extended bouts of diarrhea or vomiting,
  • Excessive sweating (prolonged exposure to sun or prolonged work in hot weather).
  • Not drinking enough fluids,
  • or even from medical conditions like diabetes and fever.

Once you start hydrating again by drinking water, you should see your urine gradually return to its normal color.

To prevent dehydration, you should always drink enough fluids throughout the day and opt for electrolyte-rich beverages when you’re sick or engaging in intense workouts.

2. Medications that cause tea-colored urine.

Certain medications can change the color of your urine, making it brown or tea-colored.

This is due to their impact on kidney function or pigment alterations.

Some common offenders include:

  • Metronidazole
  • Nitrofurantoin
  • Senna
  • Iron supplements (rarely)
  • Methocarbamol.

Generally speaking, most drug-related changes are benign and don’t mean you have significant kidney diseases. The brown or tea color often disappears shortly after you stop the drug.

Don’t stop any prescribed medication without consulting your doctor or healthcare professional.

3. Foods that cause tea-colored urine.

Did you know that some foods can cause your urine to take on a brown or tea-colored hue? Common foods that may cause darker or tea-like urine include:

  • fava beans,
  • rhubarb,
  • aloe,
  • beets,
  • and blackberries

All of these foods cause this temporary darkening of the urine (especially if eaten in large amounts).

Usually, if your brown urine is food-related, you won’t have any other symptoms of illness. However, if the unusual color lasts for several days, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor.

4. Acute hepatitis and its effects on urine color

When you have hepatitis, your body struggles to process bilirubin, leading to increased levels in your blood and urine. This can cause your urine to turn brown.

The most common causes of hepatitis are:

  • Viral infections (hepatitis A, B, or C). Hepatitis A infection is the most common among them.
  • Medication-induced liver injury.
  • Other less common causes include autoimmune hepatitis, alcoholic hepatitis, ischemic hepatitis (due to sudden drop in blood pressure), etc.

The symptoms of hepatitis can include:

  • fatigue or malaise,
  • loss of appetite,
  • nausea, vomiting,
  • dark urine, and
  • jaundice (yellow discoloration of the skin and eye whites),
  • sometimes, right hypochondria pain,
  • in patients with hepatitis a, there may be crampy abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fever.

To diagnose and treat hepatitis, doctors may sometimes use blood tests, imaging, and even liver biopsies. The treatment and recovery timeline will vary depending on the cause and severity of the condition.

5. Other liver and gallbladder diseases.

Liver and gallbladder issues can also affect your urine color due to impaired bilirubin processing.

Some common conditions that may cause tea-colored urine include

  • liver cirrhosis,
  • alcoholic liver disease,
  • gallstones (obstructing the common bile duct),
  • primary biliary cirrhosis.
  • Sclerosing cholangitis.
  • Severe fatty liver diseases (steatohepatitis).
  • And biliary tract infections.

Symptoms of chronic liver diseases include:

  • Fatigue or malaise
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Dark urine
  • Jaundice (yellow discoloration of the skin and eye whites)
  • Right hypochondria pain (in some cases)
  • swollen limbs or abdomen.
  • Vomiting of blood or passage of blackish stool (melena).
  • Confusion or loss of consciousness.

Symptoms of biliary diseases

  • Attacks of abdominal pain (biliary colic) typically in the right upper abdomen, it may refer to the back, right shoulder, and the epigastric area.
  • Jaundice.
  • Dark brown or tea-colored urine.
  • Clay-colored stool.
  • Nausea or vomiting (especially during painful attacks).
  • Fever or chills (in some cases).
  • Fatigue and anorexia (loss of appetite).

Your doctor might use blood tests, imaging, and liver biopsies when necessary to diagnose and treat these conditions. Treatments may include medications, lifestyle changes, and surgery in some cases. As always, it’s best to consult your doctor if you have concerns.

6. Hematuria: when there’s blood in your urine

Hematuria, or the presence of blood in urine, is more common than you might think, affecting up to 4-5% of the population (reference).

While hematuria typically results in red urine, it can also manifest as pink, brown, or tea-colored urine.

Common causes of hematuria:

Common causes of hematuria:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Bladder or kidney stones
  • Kidney disease
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Cancer of the bladder, kidney, or prostate
  • Blood disorders like sickle cell anemia or hemophilia
  • Medications that thin the blood, such as aspirin or warfarin
  • Strenuous exercise (exercise-induced hematuria).

Symptoms associated with hematuria may be painful urination, lower abdominal pain, and even blood clots in the urine.

To diagnose the cause, your doctor often uses urinalysis, imaging studies, and cystoscopy. Always see a doctor if you suspect your tea-colored urine is due to hematuria.

Uncommon causes of tea-colored urine:

While some factors leading to tea-colored urine are relatively benign, others might signal a medical condition requiring attention. Below are some medical conditions that can cause tea-colored urine, along with their symptoms and diagnostic methods:

  • Inflammation of the kidney (glomerulonephritis) Glomerulonephritis is the inflammation of the glomeruli – tiny filters in the kidneys that filter waste and excess fluids from the blood. Tea-colored urine is a common symptom of this condition, resulting from the presence of blood in the urine (hematuria) due to damaged glomeruli allowing blood cells to leak into the urine. Inflammation in glomerulonephritis can stem from various causes, including infections, autoimmune diseases, or certain medications. The severity of glomerulonephritis may range from mild to severe, potentially leading to kidney failure if left untreated. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential to prevent long-term kidney damage.
  • Porphyria: This group of inherited metabolic disorders can lead to the buildup of pigments called porphyrins in your urine, causing it to appear dark brown or tea-colored. The symptoms of porphyria can vary, but they often include abdominal pain, muscle weakness, and neurological issues. Your healthcare provider typically diagnoses porphyria through blood, urine, and stool tests to measure the levels of porphyrins and related chemicals.
  • Hemoglobinuria: Hemoglobinuria occurs when there’s an excess of free hemoglobin in your urine (in hematuria, the hemoglobin is inside the red blood cells), usually due to the breakdown of red blood cells. This may make you experience dark brown urine. Symptoms of hemoglobinuria can include fatigue, shortness of breath, and jaundice. To diagnose hemoglobinuria, doctors may perform a urinalysis and blood tests to check for the presence of hemoglobin and other related markers.
  • Myoglobinuria: Myoglobinuria is the presence of myoglobin, a muscle protein, in your urine. It can occur due to muscle injury or a condition called rhabdomyolysis, resulting in reddish-brown or tea-colored urine. Symptoms of myoglobinuria can include muscle pain, weakness, and dark-colored urine. Doctors typically diagnose myoglobinuria through blood and urine tests to measure myoglobin levels and other related substances.
  • Melanuria: The presence of melanin or melanin precursors in your urine can result in dark brown or black urine. Melanuria can occur in patients with malignant melanoma, a type of skin cancer. Symptoms of malignant melanoma include changes in existing moles or the appearance of new, unusual-looking moles. To diagnose malignant melanoma, doctors may perform a skin examination, a biopsy of the suspicious mole, and possibly imaging tests to check for the spread of cancer.

Diagnosing the Cause of Tea-Colored Urine

If you’re experiencing tea-colored urine, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional who can help identify the cause. Some diagnostic steps that might be taken include:

  • Urinalysis: This laboratory test involves examining a sample of your urine to check for the presence of various substances, such as glucose, proteins, or red and white blood cells.
  • Imaging studies: In some cases, your doctor might recommend imaging studies, such as ultrasound or CT scans, to help identify the cause of your tea-colored urine.
  • Medical history and symptoms: Your healthcare provider will likely ask you about your medical history, any medications you’re taking, and any accompanying symptoms you may be experiencing.

Treatment Strategies for Tea-Colored Urine

The treatment approach for tea-colored urine depends on the underlying cause. Some potential treatment options include:

  • Addressing underlying medical conditions: If your tea-colored urine is caused by a medical condition, such as liver disease or porphyria, your healthcare provider will focus on treating the underlying issue.
  • Adjusting medications or diet: If your tea-colored urine is due to a specific medication or food, your healthcare provider might recommend adjusting your medication regimen or dietary habits.
  • Proper hydration: Ensuring that you maintain adequate hydration can help prevent the darkening of your urine due to dehydration. Aim to drink enough water throughout the day to keep your urine a light, pale-yellow color.

In addition to these treatment options, following your healthcare provider’s advice and maintaining a healthy lifestyle to support your overall well-being is essential.

When to Seek Medical Help for Tea-Colored Urine

Always consult your healthcare professional if you notice persistent tea-like changes in the color of your urine or experience other concerning symptoms, such as:

  • Jaundice (yellow skin and eye whites).
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Urinary frequency or urgency
  • Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
  • Abdominal or back pain
  • Fever or chills
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • clay stools.
  • Too much or too little urine.