Observing bubbles in your urine can be a bit unsettling if you’re not used to seeing them. If one’s kidney-secreted liquid waste product can be described as being foamy in appearance, it can be even more unsettling. The truth is, if it is a one-time occurrence or one’s urine returns to normal within a day or so, there is most likely nothing to worry about. If the bubbles or foaminess persists however, it would be advisable to see your doctor or schedule a consultation with a urologist. Most of the time, the presence of bubbles is meaningless, but there are a few exceptions. The causes behind urinary bubbles that are normal and generally harmless and those that represent an abnormal and potentially harmful situation are covered here.
Causes of Foamy or Bubbly Urine That Should Not Be a Cause for Concern
Rapid Urination – If you hold back the urge to urinate a little too long, the pressure in your bladder will naturally increase. When you eventually release the urine, there is often a tendency for the bladder to expel it more forcefully than usual. When your waste liquid hits the water in the toilet bowl with more than the usual amount of force, it can cause bubbles to form. This tends to happen most often in the morning upon first arising, but it could of course happen at any time. How long the bubbles last often has something to do with the urinary chemical make-up, and this chemical make-up will change from time to time.
Highly Concentrated Urine Due to Dehydration –You may notice that at times your urine appears to be more concentrated, or at least darker in color that normal. The color of urine, normally somewhere between being nearly colorless and having a light straw color, can at times take on a deeper yellow or almost brownish hue. These color changes are generally harmless, but if your urine is somewhat dark in color and is also foamy, it is most often a sign of dehydration. Dehydration can of course at times be of some concern, especially if it is allowed to become a long-term condition, but more often than not it is just a passing situation. Make sure you’re getting an ample supply of liquids and the bubble should not return, and your waste liquid should take on a lighter color once again, assuming dehydration was the source of the problem. Even mild dehydration will often cause bubbles to form.
Pregnancy – There are those who will tell you that urinary bubbles are completely normal, no matter when they occur. There is some truth to this as urine is seldom totally bubble-free on a consistent basis. There are normally a few bubbles present, but they tend to dissipate fairly rapidly. One case where bubbly (and even foamy) urine might be considered to be quite normal would be during a pregnancy. The means by which pregnancy causes these bubbles can be traced back to filters in the kidneys, which are made up of tufts of capillaries called glomeruli. The glomerulus is a network of these tufts of capillaries located at the beginning of a part of the kidney called the nephron. The nephron is a tubular structure in the kidney that filters the blood to create urine. The glomerulus acts as a filter that prevents protein from becoming a part of the liquid waste product. Normally, the glomerulus helps to filter waste out of the blood that then enters the urinary system. The filtered blood then continues on through the circulatory system. During pregnancy, the kidneys in some women tend to become somewhat enlarged. When this happens the permeability of the glomeruli is adversely affected and the glomeruli become less efficient at keeping protein from entering the urine. There will therefore be a higher than normal concentration of protein in the urine, the end result being a more frequent occurrence of urinary bubbles or foam. While normally not a matter of concern, if you are pregnant and you are experiencing urinary bubbles, you are usually advised to check in with you obstetrician, since the existence of those bubbles could also be a symptom of a developing case of preeclampsia, a condition that if left untreated could rapidly become serious. If the foamy urine is accompanied by swelling in the hands, face, or feet, medical attention should be sought immediately since these symptoms are often a sign of abnormally high blood pressure. According to the Mayo Clinic, the only cure for preeclampsia is delivery of the baby. It should be stressed that foamy urine by itself is somewhat natural. It is the occurrence of the other symptoms that bear watching.
Menstruation – Just as experiencing urinary bubbles can be commonplace during pregnancy, their occurrence is also fairly common in women during menstruation. This is most apt to happen during the first two days in the menstrual period. The presence of bubbles need not be a cause for concern however, since the root cause is actually that of dehydration. The presence of bubbles or foam should be taken as a gentle reminder to take in more fluids. Those who are already taking in enough fluids to begin with are less likely to witness any presence of foam or bubbles.
Bubbles caused by something else. If you’ve rarely experienced urine that is foamy and it seems to occur right out of the blue, it may not be the result of anything that is amiss with your body chemistry, and in fact may have nothing to do with your body chemistry at all. There are certain toilet bowl cleansers, traces of which, when coming into contact with urine, can create bubbles or cause the urine to foam up. For that matter, there are likely many chemical substances that could find their way into a toilet bowl that could cause the waste liquid to bubble up. If your urine is excessively foamy one day and completely without foam or bubble or next, some chemical agent that was present in the toilet bowl water could have been to blame.
Abnormal Causes of Foamy or Bubbly Urine That Might Be a Cause for Concern
Proteinuria – Proteinuria is a fairly common cause of urinary bubbles for some people, although it is somewhat uncommon in a healthy individual. Normally, any protein that may be found in one’s urine is present in only small amounts, usually not enough to cause bubbles to form. Larger amounts of protein can and often will cause bubbles to form. In this case, the presence of the bubbles can be traced back to the kidneys, which control the amount of protein that is released in the urine. If the glomeruli happen to be malfunctioning, are damaged, or are simply behaving abnormally, they cannot prevent protein from entering the urinary tract.
One of the problems that can cause proteinuria and consequently result in the formation of bubbles is called glomerulonephritis, an inflammatory disease affecting the glomeruli that can be either acute or chronic. This disease affects children more often than adults and is treatable, but if left untreated, it could at times cause damage to the glomeruli and therefore to the kidneys. An acute case usually lasts only a couple of weeks, but chronic case develops slowly over time and could eventually result in kidney failure, one reason to see a physician if the presence of bubbles is becoming a common condition.
It is worth noting that an excess of protein in the urine also tends to make it appear cloudy.
Urinary Tract Infection – A urinary tract infection (UTI) can be another reason for foamy urine. The presence of foamy urine is in fact one of the more common symptoms of such a condition. If the process of urinating is causing a burning situation in addition to creating foam or bubbles, it is all more likely that a UTI is the source of the problem. In this case, the foam is not the result of an over-abundance of protein, but is instead due to the presence of bacteria. If this is the case, the infection, and the urinary bubbles, will normally disappear once the condition is treated by antibiotics.
Vesicocolic fistula – A vesicocolic fistula will more often than not produce foamy urine. This condition is rather rare, but its presence can sometimes be indicative of a more serious disorder such as Crohn’s disease. A fistula is an abnormal connection between organs in the anatomy. Some fistulas can be causes of significant concern, while others are for the most part harmless. All are abnormal anatomic conditions however. A vesicocolic fistula is so named because it forms an abnormal connection between the urinary tract and the colon. This connection can cause water to accumulate and be retained at the base of the bladder, between the bladder and your skin. The retention of this fluid and the pressure it produces can cause the urine to be foamy, just as is the case when the bladder is too full and the waste liquid is being ejected too forcefully.
Diabetes – Diabetics will sometimes experience foamy urine. The bubbles, in this case, are not usually caused directly by the disease, but by the fact that at times a diabetic may not be taking in enough water which can be a fairly normal situation. When the glucose level in the blood becomes too high, the excess glucose is removed through urination. If urination becomes too frequent, a mild case of dehydration may occur. This dehydration, due to excessive urination, can in turn cause urine to become foamy. Foamy urine in this case, as in the case of other conditions or situations that may cause dehydration, can be avoided simply by taking in a sufficient quantity of fluids.
Hypercalcemia – Hypercalcemia is a condition in which the levels of calcium in your blood are above normal. This condition is often due to dehydration, as was the case with diabetes, and can also be the case with other diseases. Hypercalcemia itself it is not a direct cause. What can happen is that one of the symptoms of hypercalcemia is excessive thirst and frequent urination. While satisfying excessive thirst may ensure that the body is receiving enough fluids, frequent urination could still result in mild dehydration, what has already been noted as being a common cause of foamy urine.
How Much Protein is Too Much?
Under normal conditions, you will almost always have some protein in your urine, but the amount tends to be very small. Any protein that is present is usually micro-molecular and is present in concentrations of less than 150 grams per deciliter, which roughly translates into 12 grams of protein in just under 1000 grams of liquid (water), or about 1 percent. If the amount of protein in your urine is in excess of 150 grams per deciliter, your clinical condition would considered to be one of proteinuria. If the amount of protein excreted is greater than 3.58 grams over a 24 hour period, the clinical condition is then referred to as massive proteinuria, which is generally considered to be a symptom of chronic kidney disease or CKD.
Fortunately, many of the situations that can be serious that causes urinary bubbles tend to be somewhat uncommon, or even rare, which is of course a good thing. If you are a diabetic or have kidney disease however, you might expect to experience urine that is foamy in appearance on a more or less regular basis. In any event, being aware of the potential cause of bubbles or foam makes things a little less scary. Insofar as everyday prevention is concerned, drinking an adequate amount of liquids is the best way to keep your urine relatively bubble-free.