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You go to the bathroom and notice your urine looks foamy or bubbly. Could it be a sign that something’s wrong?

The short answer: Maybe. Here’s what you need to know about bubbly-looking urine.

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Why Is My Urine Foamy?

There are several reasons why you could have foamy urine, including:

  • Fast urine stream. Sometimes urine looks bubbly because you had a full bladder and a strong urine stream. A single layer of bubbles that disappears is normal, especially if it only happens now and then.
  • Cleaning products. Cleaning products in the toilet bowl can make it appear there are bubbles in your urine.
  • Dehydration. Not drinking enough water can lead to bubbly urine. If you’re dehydrated, your urine may appear foamy because it’s more concentrated. It’s also likely to be darker than normal.
  • Diabetes. If your blood glucose levels are too high, the kidneys will have trouble filtering the blood properly. This can allow glucose and protein molecules from the blood to end up in the urine, which can cause foaming.
  • Kidney disease. Seeing foam in the toilet bowl on a regular basis may be a warning sign of kidney disease. Your kidneys might be leaking protein into the urine, which causes foamy-looking urine. It’s important to let your doctor know how often you’re seeing bubbly urine.

What Causes Protein in the Urine?

Blood contains proteins that help build bones and muscles, fight infection, and balance fluids in the body. The main protein in blood is albumin.

Your kidneys remove extra waste and fluid from your blood. Healthy kidneys allow protein and other nutrients in the blood to pass through and remain in the blood stream.

When kidneys suffer damage, some of the protein molecules escape into the urine. Doctors refer to protein in the urine as proteinuria or albuminuria. It’s a sign that there’s something wrong with your kidneys.

Tests for Proteinuria

If you frequently see foam in the toilet bowl, your doctor will want a sample of your urine. First, you’ll pee into a clean cup. The doctor will test some of the urine with a dipstick before sending the sample to a lab.

If your primary care doctor suspects you have chronic kidney disease (CKD), you may be referred to a kidney specialist (nephrologist). The nephrologist will run more tests to find out how far your kidney disease has progressed and recommend treatment based on those findings.

Tests your doctor might run:

  • Blood test. A blood test will estimate glomerular filtration rate (GFR). This number reflects how well your kidneys are working.
  • Imaging tests. Your doctor may order a CT scan or ultrasound of your kidneys and urinary tract. The pictures they generate can reveal kidney stones, an abnormal blockage, or other problems.
  • Kidney biopsy. Taking a small piece of tissue from the kidney will help doctors find out what caused the kidney disease. They may be able to see how much damage there is.

How Can I Reduce Foamy Urine?

Your treatment will depend on what caused your urine to be foamy.

If you’re dehydrated, drinking more water on a regular basis will help.

If you have CKD, your treatment will depend on how advanced the disease is. Treating CKD can slow disease progression and make it less likely you’ll end up with kidney failure.

Treatment may include:

Medicine

Your doctor will want to reduce the amount of protein in your urine. Lowering your blood pressure is often the best way to do that, as kidney problems and high blood pressure frequently go hand-in-hand.

Lowering your blood pressure helps the kidneys filter blood more efficiently, keeping protein in the bloodstream where it belongs. Types of blood pressure medicine include:

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (drugs that help relax and widen blood vessels)
  • Angiotensin receptor blockers, or ARBs (also helps widen blood vessels and may be better tolerated than ACE inhibitors in some patients)
  • Diuretics (medicines that help the kidneys remove fluid from the blood)

If you have diabetes, the most important part of your treatment will be controlling your diabetes and related symptoms.

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes can help to protect your kidneys and reduce proteinuria. Your doctor may suggest that you:

  • Quit smoking
  • Drink more water
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Cut down on salt
  • Improve your sleep habits
  • Learn to manage stress
  • Limit alcohol
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Increase your daily activity
Sources

Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, Foamy Urine. Link

Medical News Today, Why Is My Urine Foamy? Link

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Albuminuria: Albumin in the Urine. Link

American Kidney Fund, Protein in Urine. Link

National Kidney Foundation, What You Should Know About Albuminuria (Proteinuria). Link

About Urology

The UPMC Department of Urology treats all manners of conditions involving the urinary tract and male reproductive organs. We treat those disorders both in children and adults. We have a multifaceted team of physicians and researchers working together to provide the best care. We provide cutting-edge treatments, and we continue to lead research into even better methods for diagnosis and treatment. U.S. News & World Report ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as among the best hospitals in the country for urological care.