When to Worry About Foamy Urine | UPMC HealthBeat (2023)

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When to Worry About Foamy Urine | UPMC HealthBeat (1)


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.

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Treatment may include:


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

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

(Video) What Your Urine says about you | Colours of Urine and their meaning | Your Baby's Doctor

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

The UPMC Department of Urology offers a wide variety of specialized care for diseases of the male and female urinary tract and the male reproductive organs, including erectile dysfunction, kidney stones, urinary incontinence, prostate cancer, and more. We have a multifaceted team of physicians and researchers working together to provide the best care to both children and adults. Our team is nationally renowned for expertise in highly specialized technologies and minimally invasive surgical techniques. To find a provider near you, visit our website.


How do you know if foamy urine is serious? ›

Passing foamy urine now and then is normal, for the speed of urination and other factors can influence this. But you should see your doctor if you have persistently foamy urine that becomes more noticeable over time. This can be a sign of protein in your urine (proteinuria), which requires further evaluation.

How many times foamy urine is normal? ›

Urine can foam up briefly every once in a while. This is usually due to the speed of urine flow. Foamy urine is more likely to be a sign of disease if it happens often or it gets worse over time. If your urine is foamy, look for other symptoms as well.

How long does normal foam in urine last? ›

Healthy people will see bubbles in the toilet when they urinate with “some applied force,” Su said, but “the frothy bubbles should recede in about 10 to 20 minutes. Urine, when collected in a sample tube, should be in clear liquid form.” “Abnormal frothy bubbles indicate the presence of excessive protein in the urine.

Can you have foamy urine without protein? ›

It is not unreasonable to expect that ruptured cells releasing membrane phospholipids in the urine, as in microscopic hematuria and/or pyuria without proteinuria, can contribute to formation of urine foam.

Does all foamy urine mean kidney failure? ›

However, if you notice foam in your urine frequently, you should take it seriously and contact your doctor. Foamy urine can be a warning sign for chronic kidney disease (CKD) and your doctor can help determine the root cause as well as what treatment is needed.

How do doctors treat foamy urine? ›

The treatment options for foamy urine depend on the underlying cause. If a person is dehydrated, they should drink more clear fluids until the urine is pale yellow or nearly transparent. If diabetes is the underlying cause, a doctor may prescribe oral medications or insulin injections to reduce blood sugar levels.

What is the most common cause of 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.

What are the first signs of kidney problems? ›

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Fatigue and weakness.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Urinating more or less.
  • Decreased mental sharpness.
  • Muscle cramps.
Sep 3, 2021

Does foamy urine mean high creatinine? ›

In summary, among the patients who complained of foamy urine, a considerable number also showed overt proteinuria. In addition, increases in serum creatinine and serum phosphate showed a statistically significant association with overt proteinuria.

What stage of kidney disease is protein in urine? ›

Stage 1 CKD means you have a normal estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) of 90 or greater, but there is protein in your urine (i.e., your pee). The presence of protein alone means you are in Stage 1 CKD.

What are signs of protein in urine? ›

Protein in Urine Symptoms
  • Foamy or bubbly pee.
  • Swelling (edema) in your hands, feet, belly, and face.
  • Peeing more often.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Fatigue.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Upset stomach and vomiting.
  • Muscle cramps at night.
Aug 15, 2022

What does urine look like if it has protein in it? ›

Usually there are no symptoms. If the protein loss is heavy, the urine has a frothy appearance, and would most likely be associated with other symptoms e.g. oedema, where there is an excess of water in the body tissues.

Can anxiety cause foamy urine? ›

Foamy urine can occur if you have high protein levels in your urine, which could result from kidney disease. Other things — such as pregnancy, stress, or a urinary tract infection — may also cause foamy urine.

What else can cause foamy 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.

What is the treatment for proteinuria? ›

Proteinuria treatment depends on its cause. Each cause requires different treatments. If kidney disease causes proteinuria, your treatment plan may include medication, diet changes and exercise. Your healthcare provider may prescribe blood pressure medication if you have high blood pressure.

Will bubbles in urine go away? ›

Bubbles that flush away are normal. If you have excess protein in the urine, the bubbles sometimes will persist after flushing. If many bubbles remain after flushing, this may be abnormal.


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