Ever looked into the toilet bowl after urinating only to discover that your urine has frothed up and bubbled? Back in the ages of the Roman Empire, after voiding into a chamber pot, the characteristics of a person’s urine were examined and read for their omens, future predictions such as the sex of an unborn child, and even used to determine if someone was a practitioner of witchcraft. This practice of divination is called Uromancy and some obscure cultures still practice it today. While it may be difficult to predict the future formed from the bubbles in ones urine, it can certainly tell you plenty about your health. In today’s modern medical community, urine samples are still examined, but generally for their macro and microscopic components. Such diagnostics help determine the status of health and to monitor for any potential health concerns. Bubbles may or may not be indicative of a health issues but it is certainly reasonable to take notice if bubbles in urine are a persistent and of regular occurrence.
First, it needs to be recognized that urine is a combination of water and waste products that are excreted and filtered from the blood by the kidneys, then passed through the ureters into the bladder and finally emptied from the body via the urethra.
Waste products normally excreted in urine include:
• Uric acid
• Some electrolytes
There could be a number of reasons why bubbles may be present in your urine. For example if you are even mildly dehydrated, the waste products in your urine are at a higher concentration and this may cause your urine to foam up and bubble. If one voided an abnormally large about of urine into the toilet bowel, the shear volume may be turbid enough to cause large splatters thereby creating what appears to be bubbles in urine. It is easy to remedy these problems though: ensure you drink enough fluids to remain adequately hydrated and urinate in regular intervals emptying your bladder each time.
If you are adequately hydrated and urinate often enough and the bubbles in your urine are still present, there may be other issues that need investigating. Often, physicians will want to take a urine specimen and send it for analysis. One of the results they will they will examine is how much protein is present in the urine as it has a high probability of of causing foam and bubbles in urine.
Determining that there is protein in the urine is an abnormal finding, as protein is not considered a waste product, even though minute amounts may be present on occasion. Bubbles in urine as a result of high levels of protein could be the result of kidney damage, kidney infection, or other potential problems.
Conditions in which proteinuria, resulting in bubbles in urine could include:
• High blood pressure
• Pre-eclampsia & eclampsia
• Drug toxicity affecting the kidneys which could including certain medications such as antibiotics and narcotic as well as diagnostic dyes used for medical imaging
• Nephrotic syndrome
• Sickle cell disease
• Multiple myeloma
• Immunological dysfunctions
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Tropical diseases
• Systemic infections including HIV and hepatitis
As one can tell, the causes for protein in the urine, leading to bubbles in urine, can be vast. It is important for health care providers to determine the cause of protein in the urine in order to treat it accordingly.
Urinary Tract Infections
One of the diagnoses your physician will consider is a urinary tract infection, or UTI. Women are more prone to UTIs because their urethra is shorter than a man’s making it easier for bacteria to enter the bladder and in more severe cases to the kidneys. The resultant foam or bubbles in your urine along side sensations of burning or discomfort, frequency, and in some cases bouts of delirium (especially with the elderly), may be signs of a urinary tract infection. Alongside these parameters, the urine may present with a foul odor and may appear much darker than what is normal. Treatment is usually a course of antibiotics. However, some people are prone to frequent UTIs so noticing bubbles in urine could be an early indicator that you may be fighting a UTI.
Vesicocolic fistulas are a rare occurrence but actually have the ability of passing air bubbles directly into the urine stream. This is caused by an abnormal opening and passage way between the colon and the bladder. Occurrence of this sort of fistula may be present in severe abdominal disease such as colon cancer, crohns disease, and diverticular abscesses. Cancers of the bladder and the female genitalia may also give rise to the fistula, which could result in bubbles in ones urine.
For the most part, if you are a healthy individual a rare and occasional occurrence of foam or bubbles in urine may not be cause for concern. However, if it persists, is accompanied by pain, discomfort, fever, or during the presence of other illnesses, it is prudent to mention this symptom to your physician as you never know if something more seriously could be bubbling up.