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Foamy Urine: What's Normal, What's Not

When to Call Your Physician

Your urine can be a window into your health. If you take a gander into the toilet and notice foam, you may want your physician to take a closer look.

Cybele Ghossein, MD, a Northwestern Medicine nephrologist who specializes in kidney disease, gets to the bottom of foamy urine.

What Normal Urine Looks Like

Normal urine is clear, with a yellowish hue, explains Dr. Ghossein, with no blood or foam. But foam is different from bubbles, she says.

“Bubbles are bigger, clear and flushable,” Dr. Ghossein explains, noting that everyone will have bubbles in the toilet after urinating. Foam, on the other hand, is white, and it stays in the toilet after you flush.

What Causes Foamy Urine

Foamy urine is a sign of protein in the urine, which is not normal. “Kidneys filter the protein, but should keep it in the body,” explains Dr. Ghossein. If kidneys are releasing protein into the urine, they are not working properly. This could be caused by a number of diseases that directly impact the kidneys, such as lupus or diabetes, but can also be a symptom of a medical issue affecting other systems in your body.

If you notice foam in your urine, Dr. Ghossein says you should call your primary care physician. A simple urine test can confirm if you have protein in your urine, and how much. Based on these test results, your medical history and a thorough exam, your physician may send you to a specialist for further testing and care, she says.

It is important to note that foamy urine, when accompanied by swollen legs and swelling around the eyes, can indicate a serious medical condition, says Dr. Ghossein. If you have all three of these symptoms, you should seek medical care right away.