Foamy urine: What does it mean?
REGARDING bathroom habits, you likely don’t pay much attention when everything goes smoothly. You might already be aware of some inconsequential changes, such as dark-yellow urine indicating dehydration, or the unpleasant odour that comes from consuming certain foods like asparagus. However, foamy urine might be a less familiar concept.
Foamy urine often suggests the presence of protein in the urine, which can be indicative of kidney issues. Your kidneys are responsible for filtering and retaining protein in your body, so if they’re not functioning properly it can lead to protein leakage. Health conditions affecting the kidneys or other bodily systems like diabetes could also result in foamy urine.
Should your urine appear foamy consistently over several days and you experience additional symptoms like leg or eye swelling, consulting a doctor is advisable. Here are five potential reasons for foamy urine and corresponding actions to take if the issue occurs:
1. Urine stream: A certain degree of bubbles in urine is typical and can be influenced by the speed of urination and the distance the urine travels before reaching the toilet.
2. Dehydration: Urine contains water so inadequate fluid intake can lead to foamy urine. Greater dehydration leads to more concentrated urine, resulting in foaminess due to the higher concentration of substances in a smaller water volume. If you observe foamy urine, a useful initial step is to increase hydration. Consuming beverages with electrolytes can aid in hydration and maintaining salt levels, which often decrease when dehydrated. Severe dehydration can prompt muscle pain, dizziness, confusion, and breathing difficulties. Immediate medical attention is necessary if such symptoms occur.
3. Kidney disease: Normally the kidneys’ filters prevent protein molecules from entering the urine. An increase in protein in urine typically signifies damaged filter functions. Foamy urine might be one sign of kidney damage, accompanied by symptoms like fluid retention-related swelling or weight gain. Consulting a doctor is recommended if these symptoms are present. A basic urine test by a primary care provider can reveal protein presence and quantity. Based on the results and medical history a nephrologist may be consulted for further blood tests to identify the cause and prescribe treatment.
4. Diabetes or hypertension: Once more, protein in urine plays a role. Both diabetes, (affecting insulin levels), and hypertension, (or high blood pressure), can impair kidney blood flow and function. Elevated pressure causes stress, leading to kidney damage and protein leakage, resulting in foaminess. Both conditions have other symptoms too — diabetes may cause increased urination and thirst while hypertension might manifest as chest pain or breathlessness. If these symptoms coincide with foamy urine, informing your doctor is advised. Management often involves oral medications and adopting a healthy lifestyle inclusive of exercise; a balanced diet low in sugar, calories, and salt; and moderate alcohol intake.
When to be concerned about foamy urine
If foamy urine occurs only once there’s no immediate cause for concern. But if foamy urine becomes a regular occurrence or persists for days to a week, consulting a doctor is advisable. Pregnant individuals should be particularly cautious as protein in the urine could indicate pre-eclampsia — a serious condition. In such cases, promptly informing your doctor is essential.
Dr Jeremy Thomas is a consultant urologist. He works privately in Montego Bay, Savanna-la-Mar and Kingston, and publicly at Cornwall Regional Hospital. He may be contacted on Facebook and Instagram: @jthomasurology or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org