Urine Smells like Sulfur, In Babies, In Male and During Pregnancy

What does it mean when urine smells like sulfur? Though not uncommon, urgent medical diagnosis is required to identify and treat the underlying cause of the symptom. In males, the common cause can be a urinary tract infection, in babies and during pregnancy it can be as result of food or drinks. Here is what you need to know about the causes, symptoms and how to get rid of this embarrassing symptom.

Why does urine smell like sulfur?

There is an array of causes that can make your urine smell like sulfur. By all means, an awful smelling urine could mean something serious, this is according to a psychiatrist and nationally recognized smell and test expert Hirsch.

awful urine smell
awful urine smell

The awful smelling urine can be as a result of any of the following:

1. Diet

Pee doesn’t normally have a strong smell, but some foods, especially Asparagus, which has a smelly sulfur compound, methyl mercaptan, which can change the odor. This compound is also present in skunk secretions and garlic. The sulfur-containing acids in asparagus start breaking down these acids into small components. Research has proven that asparagus is digested in the same way by all people, but people smell asparagus pee only because they have the required gene.

This condition should not worry you though; this is because scientists have proven that this syndrome has no pathological significance. Once you reduce the consumption of asparagus, the smell will go as well

2. Diabetes

Diabetes is a serious health condition that can lead to sulfur smell in urine. Failure to diagnose this condition early enough can lead to an increase in the levels of blood sugar; this creates ketones that are responsible for creating a sulfur-like smell in urine or even sweat. You might also experience some other symptoms such as:

  • frequent urination,
  • increased thirst,
  • fatigue,
  • extreme hunger,
  • blurred vision,
  • irritability,
  • unexplained weight loss
  • slow healing sores

You may also be vulnerable to other infections like skin and vaginal infections.

3. Urinary tract infection

If your urine smells like sulfur, urinary tract infection might be the culprit. A sulfur smell occurs in women rather than men. This odor occurs due to presence of fungi, parasites, or bacteria. The urinary tract in your body consists of kidneys, urethra, and bladder. You may experience various symptoms apart from the smell from infections in one of the organs. These include;

  • Itching
  • Unusual discharges
  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Feeling like urinating all the time
  • Passing urine that appears bright pink, red, or cola-colored

Whenever you experience such symptoms, you should have a professional check you to avoid spreading of the infection. Your doctor will consider the severity of your infection and then determine the length of your treatment. The types of drugs prescribed will depend on the bacteria found in urine sample. Drugs such as Fosfomycin and trimethoprim usually work well for simple infections, but may take low-dose antibiotics at least 6 months to treat frequent infections.

Your dose may recommend a dose of antibiotics if your infection is as a result of sexual activity. For postmenopausal women, vaginal estrogen therapy usually helps treat urinary tract infections. Intravenous antibiotics are also required in case of severe UTI.

4. Prostatitis

Prostatitis is a condition that occurs when the prostate gland, which is a walnut-sized gland, becomes inflamed due to an infection or other reasons. This condition may lead to sulfur-like smell in your urine. Apart from smelly urine, you may also experience some other symptoms such as;

  • Abdominal pain
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Frequent urination
  • Urgent need to urinate
  • Pain between the rectum and scrotum

How to treat prostatitis

It is important to identify the underlying cause in order to treat this condition well. For instance;

  • Antibiotics- these medications can be taken to treat bacterial infection. You should first find out the type of bacteria and then determine the most effective antibiotics. Intravenous antibiotics are required for severe cases, whereas oral antibiotics are prescribed for chronic prostatitis.
  • Anti-inflammatory agents- these are non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs taken to relieve pain and swelling.
  • Prostate massage- your doctor may use lubricated glove finger to massage your prostate gland. This helps to relieve pain and discomfort.
  • Alpha blockers- this medication may be prescribed by your doctor to help relax your neck bladder. This helps resolve certain problems such as painful urination.
  • Treatments such as drugs containing plant extracts and heat therapy with a microwave device may help treat prostatitis more effectively.

5. Medications

Some antibiotics used to clear bacterial infections can change the odor of your urine. These include ciprofloxacin or amoxicillin. The change may also occur drastically, to the extent of worrying you. You may also experience this condition from the intake of multivitamin supplements.

6. Liver problems

Your liver is responsible for processing and eliminating waste. When the liver doesn’t function well, the urine might change both appearance and smell. A sulfur-like smell is a sign of a serious underlying health issue that requires immediate medical attention.

7. Cystitis

It is a common issue for women. It may be caused by bacterial infection. The very first signs of the problem are the need to urinate overnight, sulfur smelling pee and grievously urination.

8. Dehydration

Dehydration can cause a strong urine smell. When you are dehydrated, the ammonia in your body is not diluted and this causes the urine to acquire a darker color and becomes more concentrated. It also contains a stronger ammonia scent than usual. This could be as a result of sickness, lack of sufficient drinking fluids, hot weather, or physical overexertion.

To change that you must consume more water daily. Add cranberry juice to your ration too. It is regarded as a natural and 100% healthy urinary antiseptic.

9. Cystinuria

Cystinuria is an inherited urine disease that causes urine acquires a sulfur-like smell. Those individuals suffering from this disease are unable to properly reabsorb cysteine, an amino acid (a building block of proteins).  For that reason, the excess cysteine (which is a sulfur containing amino acid) is excreted in the urine, giving it the sulfur-like smell.

What does it mean when urine smells like sulfur?

Urine odor may be caused by a variety of conditions that are not harmful or not caused by disease including; eating certain foods, such as garlic, onions, and asparagus. Asparagus can cause a sulfur-like smell in urine. This condition can also be as a result of dehydration and infections.

1. An enlarged prostate or bladder disorder

This condition will affect you if your bladder is not properly emptying. The leftover urine produces a sulfur-like smell. This condition requires check up by a doctor before it becomes worse.

2. Maple syrup urine disease

This is an inherited metabolic disorder where the body is unable to process certain proteins, namely amino acids. It is characterized by a smell of urine that resembles maple syrup. This disease affects children and it is common in Mennonite settlements in the USA. The babies with this condition will also exhibit some other symptoms such as poor feeding, vomiting, lack of energy, and development delays.

3. Kidney stones

Kidney stones pass in urine and if they happen to be small in size, you might not experience any symptoms. However, if the stone is large enough to block the tubes inside the kidney, you may experience intense pains that come and go. The pain may last from 5 to 15 minutes at a time. As the stone moves from the kidney towards the bladder, you may feel pain near the abdomen, groin, or genitals. You may also see blood in urine, a cloudy or sulfur-like smell in urine, nausea, vomiting and constant urge to urinate.

4. Eating excess citrus fruits or vinegar

These can cause the kidney to excrete the excess acid through ammonia. The strong ammonia smell produces sulfur-like smell in your urine.

5. Diabetic ketoacidosis

Diabetic Ketoacidosis is a dangerous complication of diabetes that happens when the body is unable to use blood glucose because of lack of enough insulin, so it breaks down fat as an alternative source of fuel, causing a build-up of a dry by-product called ketones. This condition can cause a strong odor in your urine.

6. Hemolytic anemia

Hemolytic anemia is a condition in which red blood cells are destroyed and removed from the bloodstream before their normal lifespan is over. The heme is ultimately converted to bilirubin and removed in stool and urine. This condition can lead to strong sulfur-like smell in your urine. This condition can be classified into inherited and acquired types.

Hemolysis is the premature destruction of red blood cells due to intrinsic inherited defects in the red blood cells or because of acquired intravascular abnormalities. This condition may be intravascular or extravascular.

In intravascular hemolysis, red blood cells lyse in the circulation releasing hemoglobin into the plasma. This can be as a result of mechanical trauma, complement fixation, or other toxic damage to the red blood cells. The fragmented red blood cells are called schistocytes. Intravascular hemolysis releases hemoglobin which is immediately bound to haptoglobin, binding of these two generally overwhelms the rate of haptoglobin synthesis, haptoglobin decrease. After haptoglobin is saturated, excess hemoglobin is filtered in the kidney and reabsorbed in the proximal tubules where the iron is recovered and converted into hemosiderin or ferritin. Urine hemosiderin is an indicator of intravascular free hemoglobin being filtered by the kidneys.

In extravascular hemolysis, red blood cells are phagocytized by macrophages in the spleen and liver. The causes of this include red blood cells membrane abnormalities such as bound immunoglobulin, or physical abnormalities restricting red blood cells deformability that prevent egress from the spleen. This condition is characterized by spherocytes

Urine smells like sulfur in the morning

Why does urine smell bad in the morning? You may find that your urine smells stronger and is darker first thing in the morning when it’s more concentrated, or when your system gets dehydrated. Some certain foods and drinks may also temporarily give your urine a sulfur-like smell.

  1. Vitamin supplement can easily alter the smell of your urine- the include vitamin B-complex and B-12 (found in animal-derived foods). A multivitamin can also cause a strong sulfur-like odor in the morning.
  2. A bladder fistula– this is an abnormal connection between your intestines and bladder. This condition may develop as a result of injury, infection, surgery, or inflammation. This condition leads to mixing of intestinal and bladder contents, making the urine acquire a sulfur-like smell. You may also observe some particles in your urine if you have this condition. This condition normally affects people with an inflammatory bowel disease, like Crohn’s or digestive tract inflammation or infection. It can also affect those with cancer, especially after radiotherapy in that area.
  3. Urine concentration– it’s normal for urine to have a stronger odor first thing in the morning. During the night, your urine becomes more concentrated and odorous, as well as brighter yellow in color. This condition should not worry you, especially if not accompanied by any symptoms. Dehydration also increases urine concentration, this could be as a result of consumption of foods or drinks that take up body water over the night. Hot weather or intense physical activity can also lead to dehydration. To resolve this condition, you should drink plenty of water before you go to sleep or take foods that add water to your body.
  4. Urine leakage or incontinence-this condition may be temporary or chronic. When it occurs, the smell of urine may be stronger than usual and sulfur-like because it clings to clothing. Temporary causes could be excess fluid in the bladder. This condition could be caused by drinks like alcohol or coffee, which causes a sudden need to urinate and urine leakage. It can also be as a result of dehydration and other sources of bladder irritation like carbonated drinks, spicy, sugary, or acid foods.
  5. Chronic incontinence- this condition could be as a result of prostate and bladder disorders, including enlargement of prostate and weakened bladder. If incontinence is contributing to the sulfur-like smell in your urine, you should consult a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
  6. Garlic and onions– consuming a bunch of garlic and onions can actually cause sulfur-like smell in your urine. This is because of something that is produced by the body when it breaks garlic and onions down; this maintains the smell even in the urine.

Urine smells like rotten eggs during pregnancy

Your kidneys filter water and other substances from your blood to produce urine. Urine contains waste products and potentially harmful products in the body. During pregnancy, urine production increases, thus the need to urinate more in a day. It is normal for urine to have a slight odor during pregnancy, an increase or change in urine odor might signal a health issue. The following are the most probable causes for this condition;

1. Urine leakage

Overproduction of urine during pregnancy is accompanied by slight relaxation of the muscle tissue of your bladder and urethra. This can lead to involuntary leakage of urine from your bladder or urinary incontinence. This often occurs when you sneeze, cough, laugh or strain your body. At time, though not that often, you might have a difficulty holding your urine and experience some leakage when you have to go. Urine odor can be felt even with a small amount of leakage. Urine leakage is common during pregnancy and affects 30-50% of women. Research has proven that this can start as early as your trimester.

smelly urine during pregnancy
smelly urine during pregnancy

2. Dehydration

Urine usually has little to no odor during pregnancy and it does contain ammonia. This chemical is produced primarily by your kidneys from a byproduct of protein metabolism. The concentration of ammonia in the urine is usually quite low because it is normally diluted with water. In case you fail to drink sufficient water and other fluids, your urine becomes concentrated and may emit a strong ammonia odor, which could resemble a rotten egg. You can, however, alleviate this condition by increasing your fluid intake, this helps ensure that you don’t suffer dehydration- which is also risky for the health of your baby.

3. Urinary tract and vaginal infections

During pregnancy, there is a great risk of contracting urinary tract infection. According to research by ‘European Journal of Clinical Investigation’ in October 2008, about 7.4% of pregnant women develop urinary tract infection (UTI). A UTI can lead to a strong and unpleasant urine odor. Some other symptoms that denote this condition include frequent or painful urination, fever and back pain. Some pregnant women may experience no symptoms except the presence of bacteria in the urine.

A vaginal infection called bacterial vaginosis (BV) can also cause an unpleasant, sometimes rotten egg like smelling urine. Although this infection develops in the vagina, you might detect the odor when you urinate and vaginal secretions mix with urine. In case you develop this condition, it is important that you seek immediate medical attention; this is because it increases the risk of going into premature labor.

Precautions

If you notice your urine with an unusual odor like rotten eggs, you should see your doctor on quick notice to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.

If you are experiencing urinary leakage- you can consider the use of panty liners and pelvic floor exercises.

If you have urine odor accompanied by fever, chills and back pain, you might be having a kidney infection or urinary tract infection, which require immediate antibiotic treatment

Treatment

for smelly urine

Urine odor can be unpleasant and can also lead to embarrassing situations especially if you are sharing bathroom. There are several ways to help resolve this condition, both medically and with home remedies.

The best way to treat the smell is by treating the underlying cause. If the smell persisit for more than three day, it is important to have it checked out as soon as possible. yoou health care provider will run some test to identify the underlying medical cause then prescribe the right treatment option.

1. Detox

The reason for a foul odor in your urine could be accumulation of toxins. You should therefore ensure that you detoxify your system by consuming lemon water on empty stomach every morning.

2. Hydrate

If the cause of the odorous urine is dehydration, you should ensure that you drink plenty of water to hydrate your system. You may also eat fruits that help increase water levels in your body, like watermelons.

3. Buttermilk

Buttermilk contains medicinal properties that help cure the urinary tract, if it is the reason for the urine odor. The following is how buttermilk is used to treat smelly urine;

  • Add pasted urine and ginger to buttermilk and consume it every day.
  • You may also consume buttermilk twice a day

4. Cranberry juice

Cranberries can help fight urinary tract infections, possibly by decreasing the adhesion of bacteria to the bladder and urethra. Cranberries may also be helpful for cleansing the kidneys of excess calcium oxalate, one of the main contributors of kidney stones. You can also eat cranberries if the juice is not available.

References

  1. Smelly urine: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/smelly-urine/Pages/Introduction.aspx
  2. Home remedies to cure smelly urine: http://www.boldsky.com/health/disorders-cure/2015/home-remedies-to-cure-smelly-urine/articlecontent-pf81554-069223.html
  3. Causes of strong urine odor: http://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/strong-smelling-urine-not-necessarily-cause-for-concern/

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