Can Cloudy Urine Be a Sign of Diabetes?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Diabetes can cause cloudy urine when too much sugar builds up in your urine.

Your urine may also smell sweet or fruity. Diabetes can also lead to kidney complications or increase risk of infections of the urinary tract, both of which can also make your urine appear cloudy.

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However, cloudy urine can be caused by several other conditions that aren’t related to diabetes. If you’re worried that cloudy urine is a sign of diabetes, look out for other symptoms, like urinating often and feeling extremely thirsty.

You should see a doctor if you’ve been experiencing cloudy urine for more than a few days or you have other symptoms.

Causes of cloudy urine

There are several possible reasons why diabetes can cause cloudy urine, including:

Presence of sugar

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps regulate blood sugar.

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In people with diabetes, the body doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t effectively use the insulin it does make. This causes abnormally high levels of blood sugar.

The kidneys, which are responsible for filtering the blood and removing waste and excess fluid, will filter out this sugar.

The sugar is then excreted in your urine. The excess sugar can make it appear cloudy or even smell sweet or fruity.

For some people, this is the first sign of diabetes. If you suddenly notice cloudy urine that smells sweet, see a doctor right away.

Chronic kidney disease caused by diabetes
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Over time, diabetes puts stress on the kidneys, which can lead to chronic kidney disease. People with kidney disease may have protein in your urine. The presence of proteins in your urine may result in a cloudy appearance.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, about 30 percent of people with type 1 diabetes — and between 10 and 40 percent of people with type 2 diabetes — will eventually experience kidney failure.

Increased risk of urinary tract infections due to diabetes

Diabetes can increase your risk of having urinary tract infections (UTIs), especially in people who have a vagina. This is because high glucose levels make it harder for the body to fight infection.

UTIs can make urine appear cloudy due to the presence of white blood cells, which your body sends out to fight off the infection.

Other causes of cloudy urine

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Cloudy urine can have a few different causes unrelated to diabetes. These include:

Dehydration

A common cause of cloudy urine is dehydration. Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it takes in. Anyone can become dehydrated, including healthy adults and children. This is especially true after exercise or in times of hot weather.

When you’re dehydrated, your body will hold on to water rather than excrete it. This means that your urine is more concentrated. It may appear cloudy, or darker in color than usual.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • feeling thirsty
  • dry mouth
  • headache
  • dark yellow or cloudy urine
  • infrequent urination
  • confusion
  • dizziness or fainting
  • constipation
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To avoid dehydration, make sure you’re drinking enough water. If you or your child has been vomiting or had diarrhea, talk to your doctor about how to rehydrate.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

A UTI is a bacterial infection of any part of the urinary tract. During a UTI, your body releases white blood cells to fight the infection. The presence of white blood cells can make your urine appear cloudy.

Other symptoms of UTIs include a persistent need to urinate, foul-smelling urine, and burning or pain while urinating. In people who have a vagina, they can cause pelvic pain.

UTIs are very common in the United States, especially in people who have a vagina. Roughly 50 to 60 percent of people who have vaginas will report having at least one UTI in their lifetime.

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UTIs can be serious if not treated right away. Treatment includes a course of antibiotics and drinking plenty of water.

Vaginitis

Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina. It’s caused by certain types of bacteria, fungi, or other organisms. Cloudy urine can occur when white blood cells or discharge mix with urine.

Other symptoms of vaginitis include:

  • itching or burning in and around the vagina
  • yellow, gray, or green discharge
  • foul- smelling or fishy-smelling discharge
  • discharge with a cottage cheese-like consistency
  • burning while urinating
Kidney stones

Kidney stones are hard deposits of minerals and salts that grow inside the kidneys. These stones can sometimes get lodged somewhere inside the urinary tract and cause infections, along with a great deal of pain.

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Kidney stones, especially those that have caused an infection, can cause your urine to appear cloudy.

Other symptoms of kidney stones include:

  • severe pain on your side or back that usually comes in waves
  • pain while urinating
  • urine that’s pink, red, or brown in color
  • foul-smelling urine

Most kidney stones will pass through the urinary tract and out of the body on their own. Larger stones or infections may need treatment in the emergency room.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Common STIs, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, may lead to cloudy urine due to the presence of white blood cells in your urine.

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Other possible symptoms of an STI include:

  • itching in the genitals
  • rash or blisters
  • burning when urinating
  • pelvic pain in people who have a vagina
  • pain during intercourse
Prostate problems

The prostate is a gland located below the bladder in people who have a penis. Prostatitis is inflammation or infection of the prostate. Chronic prostatitis is estimated to occur in 10 to 15 percent of people in the United States who have a penis.

Cloudy urine may result from white blood cells, pus, or penile discharge.

Other symptoms of prostatitis include:

  • pain or burning during urination
  • difficulty urinating
  • urinary urgency
  • blood in your urine or ejaculate
  • pain in the groin or lower back
  • painful ejaculation
Diet
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Though not common, drinking too much milk or eating foods high in protein can cause your urine to appear cloudy. This is because milk and milk products contain calcium phosphate.

Phosphorus in your urine may turn it cloudy. Protein-rich foods like meat and beans may also be higher in phosphorus. Phosphate in your urine can also be a sign of other medical problems.

Other signs of diabetes

If you have cloudy urine and think it might be caused by diabetes, keep an eye out for other symptoms. Other signs or symptoms of diabetes include:

  • increased hunger
  • increased thirst
  • frequent urination
  • sores that are slow to heal
  • blurry vision
  • extreme fatigue

When to see a doctor

See a doctor if you’re concerned about cloudy urine and you have other bothersome symptoms.

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You should see a doctor right away if you’re experiencing any other symptoms of an infection, including pain or burning when urinating or foul-smelling discharge.

Seek emergency medical attention if you have any of the following symptoms along with cloudy urine:

  • intense pain below the ribs on your side or back
  • pain while urinating
  • pink, red, or brown urine

The bottom line

Diabetes is one possible cause of cloudy urine. Diabetes can lead to a buildup of sugar in your urine, making it appear cloudy. Diabetes can also eventually cause kidney problems or increase the risk of UTIs, which may also make your urine appear cloudy.

Various types of infections and non-diabetes related problems with the kidneys or prostate could also cause cloudy urine. Occasional bouts of cloudy urine can also be a result of dehydration.

If you’re concerned about cloudy urine, talk to your doctor about other symptoms and potential causes.

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