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Urine odor refers to the scent of the fluid excreted during urination. Urine odor varies. However, if you drink enough fluids and are otherwise healthy, urine does not usually have a strong smell.
Changes in urine odor are usually temporary. Such changes are not always a sign of disease. Certain foods and medicines, including vitamins, may affect your urine's odor. For example, asparagus causes a characteristic urine odor due to its content of asparagine, an amino acid.
However, foul-smelling urine may be due to bacteria, such as those responsible for urinary tract infections. 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.
Abnormal urine odor may indicate:
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Contact your health care provider if you have fever, chills, burning pain with urination, or back pain along with an abnormal urine odor. These may be signs of a urinary tract infection.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
The following tests may be performed:
Landry DW, Bazari H. Approach to the patient with renal disease. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 116.
Israni AK, Kasiske BL. Laboratory assessment of kidney disease: clearance, urinalysis, and kidney biopsy. In: Brenner BM, ed. Brenner and Rector's The Kidney. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 23.
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.