Bubbles in Urine: What Causes Foamy Urine? Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Treatment

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Bubbles in Urine
iStock.com/LoveTheWind

Bubbles in the urine are not the result of drinking too many carbonated beverages and can come from a few different causes.

Some causes of bubbles in the urine are normal or harmless, but others can warrant some deeper concern.

Healthy urine appears smooth in texture with a color ranging from pale yellow to a darker golden hue. A change in the texture of the urine, such as bubbles, may indicate an overly full bladder due to an underlying medical condition, the ingestion of certain medications, or severe dehydration.

In This Article:

Serious Causes of Bubbles in Urine

What are the less frequent reasons behind bubbly urine? These causes can be much more problematic than those listed above, but fortunately, they usually come with other associated symptoms that can make differentiation easier when discussing the matter with your doctor.

Urinary Tract Infection

The urinary tract is a sterile environment, but sometimes bacteria can find their way inside. As the bacteria grow and feed, they will release various gasses that create bubbles which get carried out in the urine. Urinating with a UTI often produces a shot of pain or a burning sensation, and the bacterial buildup can make urine appear cloudy or foul-smelling.

Diabetes

Small bubbles in urine are a common occurrence among those with diabetes, and may be the result of excessive amounts of protein, known as albumin, in the urine.

When blood sugar levels increase, the tissues of the kidneys sometime become scarred and damaged, and leak protein into the urine. The urine may appear foamy at this stage of the condition, which is called diabetic kidney disease.

Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a complication of pregnancy that causes a buildup of protein in the urine and bubbles as a result. Other symptoms are high blood pressure; swelling in the hands, face, and feet; pitting edema; vision problems; and shortness of breath.

The symptoms can be hard to differentiate from the normal effects of pregnancy, but if a woman has not experienced them earlier in the pregnancy or if they occur in combination, it’s important to get evaluated.

Proteinuria

Excess protein in the urine can come from non-pregnancy related causes as well, such as inflammation of the glomerulus. It may also be the sign of a kidney disorder, a side effect of a drug, rheumatoid arthritis, or various other conditions.

If you suspect your urine has excess protein (which makes urine appear cloudy as well as bubbly), talk to your doctor and arrange for a test to confirm.

How Much Protein Is Too Much?

The protein is measured in grams per deciliter. Even healthy urine can contain some protein, often calculated as less than 150 grams per deciliter. More than this amount indicates proteinuria. Massive proteinuria, excreting more than 3.58 grams within 24 hours, may lead to chronic kidney disease.

Vesicocolic Fistula

A fistula is a connection between two parts of the anatomy that isn’t supposed to be there. In the case of a vesicocolic fistula, the connection is between your urinary tract and the colon.

As water passes through the colon, it can end up becoming retained at the base of the bladder due to the fistula. This builds extra pressure on the bladder and results in more forceful urination, similar to the force caused by holding in your pee. Consequently, the bubbles from a vesicocolic fistula will be foamy in nature.

These fistulas are rare but can be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. So, if your urine is routinely foamy, especially if you aren’t holding it in, speak with your doctor.

Hypercalcemia

Calcium blood levels that extend beyond normal limits lead to hypercalcemia. This medical condition often causes extreme thirst, dehydration, and frequent urination. The result may be foamy urine or air bubbles in the urine.

While the higher levels of calcium do not directly cause the change in urinary output, the symptoms can.

Non-Serious Causes of Bubbly Urine

So what causes bubbles in the urine? It’s worth noting that urine usually comes out with a few bubbles in it purely as a result of air bubbles being formed after it hits the toilet water. Urine is no different from other liquids in this case and those bubbles should pop shortly after forming.

Bubbles that stick around may be from a different cause, and the most common reasons for this happening are also the least problematic.

Dehydration

When you are dehydrated, your urine becomes more concentrated and this buildup of various chemicals and substances can lead to extra air bubbles in the urine. Dehydration also makes the urine darker for the same reasons and can result in a deeper yellow or possibly brownish color.

If you have bubbles when your urine is clear or a light straw color, you can rule out dehydration. Incidentally, it’s more common to see the pairing of urine bubbles and diabetes, since diabetics are more vulnerable to dehydration.

Pregnancy

During pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes a series of obvious and subtle changes. One of the less-noticeable effects is that the kidneys can swell, including their various filters and passages. One of these, the glomerulus, helps filter the blood and makes sure things that are supposed to stay in the bloodstream don’t get urinated away by mistake.

An enlarged glomerulus makes it easier for protein to pass through, which leads to excess protein in the urine—this is what can create bubbles in the urine during pregnancy.

Menstruation

Menstruation is the natural monthly discharge of uterine tissue and blood in females. The changes in the body during this time include dehydration, which is the cause for the air bubbles in urine.

The bubbles usually disappear after the first few days of menstruation and are no cause for concern.

Stress

Anxiety and stress cause physical changes in the body, including an alteration in urine. Clinical studies show that extreme stress over time may stimulate the overproduction of albumin in the urine. This can create bubbly urine.

A 2014 study of caregivers of patients with severe mental illness found a significant positive correlation between urinary albumin-creatinine ratio and caregiver burden, current anxiety level, and depression score.

Semen in Urine

Foamy or bubbly urine can be seen in males after sexual intercourse. Small amounts of semen left in the urethra following ejaculation may often be expelled in the urine stream. This incident is common with an improperly functioning bladder sphincter, which allows the sperm to enter the bladder.

Toilet Water

Your toilet contains various cleaning chemicals, cleansers, and possibly odor removers that can react with elements in your urine. These reactions, in turn, produce gasses that form bubbles, often resulting in minor bubbling or may even seem to fill up the bowl with frothy foam.

If you have ever peed into a bowl that still has toilet cleaner sitting in it, you have likely seen an exaggerated version of this phenomenon.

High-Velocity Pee

The longer you wait between feeling the urge to urinate and actually going, the more pressure there is on the bladder. The sudden release of this pressure when you finally go to the bathroom will cause your urine to be expelled with more force than normal. This can cause excess bubbles and even foamy urine to form as a result.

Denser Urine

Highly concentrated, or dense, urine may indicate a kidney condition or problem. It may be a sign of dehydration as well. This may present as bubbles in the urine, foamy urine, or with a dark amber hue.

A urine specific gravity test will compare your urine to the density of water, which helps determine how well the kidneys are diluting your urine.

Symptoms That May Accompany Foamy Urine

In addition to bubbles and foam in the urine, you may notice other symptoms that will indicate which medical condition, if any, is causing the change in the urine output.

Signs to watch for include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Swelling in hands and feet
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Low semen volume after ejaculation
  • Lower back pain
  • Lethargy
  • Bloody urine

Risk Factors of Bubbly Urine

As foamy urine or floating bubbles in urine can sometimes be linked to medical conditions, it’s important to be aware of the risk factors.

Excess protein in the urine typically indicates kidney failure or disease, which may be the result of conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes, or inherited and congenital kidney diseases.

Foamy urine as a result of retrograde ejaculation can be linked to diabetes; mood disorder, enlarged prostate, and high blood pressure medications; surgical procedures involving the urethra or prostate; spinal cord nerve damage; or multiple sclerosis.

Pregnancy and dehydration may lead to more heavily concentrated urine, which often appears foamy.

Treating Bubbles in Urine

UTI: In the case of a UTI, drinking lots of water and taking antibiotics are important for flushing out the bacteria that have set up shop in your urinary tract.

Vesicocolic fistula: A vesicocolic fistula may require surgery to resolve but about half end up closing on their own if given enough time, so your doctor may want to wait and watch first.

Preeclampsia: Preeclampsia is more complicated since the only cure is giving birth, but it might be too early in the pregnancy for the fetus to survive. If this is the case, then it will be necessary to visit the doctor more regularly to more carefully monitor symptoms until the pregnancy advances enough.

An interesting 2010 study found that regular intake of dark chocolate during pregnancy was associated with reduced risk of preeclampsia and gestational hypertension among groups of pregnant women in Connecticut.

Dehydration: Staying hydrated and going quickly after feeling the need are the main ways to prevent excess bubbles from forming in your urine.

Diabetes: This condition may be difficult to prevent, but it is a manageable disease. Treatment includes monitoring blood sugar levels, exercising regularly, and most importantly, following a healthy diet. Most diabetic cases require prescribed medication to lower high blood sugar levels.

High blood pressure is directly linked to diabetes and can be managed, and possibly cured, with similar treatments.

Proteinuria: Excess protein in the urine may be a sign of progressive kidney disease. Treatment focuses on maintaining kidney function through medication, dietary changes, controlling blood pressure and blood glucose levels, and following a healthy lifestyle. This includes exercising regularly, losing excess weight, and avoiding smoking.

Hypercalcemia: Too much calcium in the blood requires treatment depending on the underlying cause. It may include flushing out calcium by drinking excess water, taking medications, and possibly reducing your intake of calcium or vitamin D supplements.

The good news is that although urine bubbles can have some worrisome and potentially serious causes, these are thankfully rare. Staying hydrated and keeping an eye out for other associated symptoms is often all you need to avoid most cases of extra bubbles.

When to See a Doctor

Successfully managing any of the diagnosed medical conditions that lead to bubbles in urine will require regular checkups and monitoring by a doctor.

Seek medical attention if any of the following conditions are present:

  • Urine remains foamy or has bubbles for more than several days
  • Urine turns bloody
  • Urine turns cloudy
  • Symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and swelling of hands or feet appear
  • Male orgasms produce little to no semen
  • Couples trying to get pregnant have no success for more than one year

Final Thoughts on Bubbles in Urine

Bubbles in urine, or a foamy appearance to the urine, are common under certain circumstances. There is usually no cause for concern if your bladder has been emptied after being full for some time, you’ve had a low intake of water, or you’ve consumed food that quickly passes through the digestive system.

Some medical conditions such as diabetes and retrograde ejaculation may also cause a change in the urine.

Seeing urine with bubbles for more than a few days may indicate a serious health condition and requires medical advice. Damage or injury to the kidneys can rapidly progress to kidney disease or kidney failure.

Read Next:

Article Sources (+)

Tidy, Dr. C., “Diabetic Kidney Disease,” Patient, October 30, 2017; https://patient.info/health/diabetes-mellitus-leaflet/diabetic-kidney-disease, last accessed March 1, 2018.
Lundin, D., “How to Lower Calcium Naturally,” Livestrong, August 14, 2017; https://www.livestrong.com/article/510147-how-to-lower-calcium-naturally/, last accessed March 2, 2018.
Saftlas, A., et al, “Does Chocolate Intake During Pregnancy Reduce the Risks of Preeclampsia and Gestational Hypertension?” Annals of Epidemiology, Aug. 2010; 20(8): 584–591; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2901253/, last accessed March 2, 2018.
Tags: ,