What It Means When Your Urine Is Foamy

If you're like most people, you probably don't spend time scoping out the toilet bowl after you've done your business. But sometimes, what's in there can actually catch your attention — a bad tummy brought on by spicy tacos, food poisoning outcomes, and excessively yellow or cloudy urine being some of them. 

What about when your urine is foamy? You look back in the toilet bowl and wonder if a few spurts of handwash fell in there with your pee (or maybe even some beer). What's with all the white bubbles? While less serious reasons for foamy urine could include things like using abrasive cleaning products in the toilet just before you urinated, dehydration, certain medications, or even simply relieving yourself at lightning speed, more serious causes indicate an excess of protein in your pee — and this could be caused by advanced kidney disease. 

"Under normal circumstances, the kidney filters do not permit protein molecules from the blood to pass through and end up in the urine. An increase of protein in the urine is generally evidence of a damaged and leaky kidney filter," shared New York's CareMount Medical nephrologist, Yaakov Liss (via Women's Health). But there's no need to run to the doctor the one time you see some white foam in your pee. In fact, with kidney disease, you would see frothy urine consistently, and you'd also have accompanying symptoms like swelling in the legs and hands and even pain in your lower back. 

When should you be worried about kidney disease?

Excess protein in your urine is just one sign of kidney disease. But it is possible to miss most of the symptoms, mainly because people tend to associate them with other causes, according to Dr. Joseph Vassalotti, Chief Medical Officer at the National Kidney Foundation

"There are a number of physical signs of kidney disease, but sometimes people attribute them to other conditions. Also, those with kidney disease tend not to experience symptoms until the very late stages, when the kidneys are failing or when there are large amounts of protein in the urine. This is one of the reasons why only 10% of people with chronic kidney disease know that they have it," shared Vassalotti. 

If you suspect kidney disease, be mindful of other symptoms, like fluid retention in your hands, legs, face, and stomach, fatigue and trouble sleeping, dry and itchy skin, blood in your urine, and muscle cramping, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Your doctor will test the protein levels in your urine after receiving a urine sample from you. Then they will isolate what is causing your kidneys to produce more protein and treat the root cause. Since bubbly urine is usually a sign of more serious kidney disease, you may have to be quick about treatment. At this stage, dialysis would be the main route, along with medications. If you happen to catch the disease earlier, your doctor would typically recommend medication and certain lifestyle changes such as eating a low-sodium diet, managing blood pressure and sugar levels, and regular exercise, per Medical News Today

Foamy urine can also be a sign of diabetes

Too much protein in your urine is the main culprit when it comes to foamy pee. Diabetes can also interfere with the normal functioning of your kidneys and cause excess protein in your urine. "As a diabetic, your doctor should check your protein in the urine at least every six months," shared endocrinologist Dr. Ahmet Ergin on YouTube

Other causes of bubbly pee include hypertension, chronic infections like hepatitis or HIV, autoimmune conditions like lupus, and multiple myeloma. But again, foam in the urine is not the only symptom with serious health conditions like these. For example, with hypertension, you may also experience headaches, anxiety, nausea, and chest pain; with chronic infections, there would also be fever, vomiting, and loss of appetite. As nephrologist Ana Claudia Onuchic-Whitford shared with Women's Health, "If someone has foamy urine and other new or concerning symptoms like blood in the urine, pain when urinating, excessive fatigue, fevers, weight loss, swelling, shortness of breath, or persistent joint pain, they should contact their doctor immediately."  

If you're simply dehydrated, your urine color and its foaminess will alert you to drink up. The important thing to do with changes in your urine is to keep a mindful eye on them. Believe it or not, there are surprising things your pee can reveal about your health.