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What Causes Sweet Smelling Urine?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Causes of sweet smelling urine include high concentrations of sugars or ketones, low urine volume, and certain dietary factors. The sudden development of a sweet or fruity odor in the urine is a cause for concern, as it indicates that something is wrong with a patient's metabolism. A doctor can take a urine sample for analysis and perform some other tests to learn more about the patient's condition and develop some treatment recommendations.

High blood sugar can cause urine to smell sweet, as the kidneys express the excess sugar in the urine to eliminate it. Diabetes is a common cause for a spike in blood sugar level, and some patients have high blood sugar that doesn't quite qualify them for a diabetes diagnosis, but could put them at risk of developing this disorder. If patients notice excessive thirst along with changes in urine odor, diabetes is a culprit they should consider.

Ketones in the urine are another potential cause. This can occur during dieting, especially radical dieting, and it is also a sign of malnutrition or starvation. These patients may have normal blood glucose levels, but still have sweet smelling urine. If patients notice changes in urine odor in conjunction with dietary changes, ketones may be the cause, and a doctor can perform a test to check on the level of these compounds.

Low urine volume can be a potential cause. When patients do not drink very much water, their urine becomes concentrated, and any odors will be more apparent. If the patient hasn't been drinking water and has been consuming lots of sweet foods like fruits and baked desserts, the urine may smell slightly sweet. This is not necessarily a cause for concern, although it can be a warning sign to drink more water to prevent dehydration and kidney damage. More dilute urine shouldn't have a sweet odor in these cases.

The other cause of sweet smelling urine is an underlying metabolic disorder. One such disorder is known as maple syrup urine disease, after the distinctive odor associated with it. If an error of metabolism is causing the change in odor, the patient will probably have other symptoms as well. In patients with maple syrup urine, for example, there are also neurological symptoms and the patient will exhibit symptoms like sweet smelling urine shortly after birth, rather than developing them later in life. Patients at risk of metabolic disorders may undergo newborn screening to check for common disorders and risk factors.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By lonelygod — On Nov 08, 2011

If you have sweet smelling urine, and it is related to your metabolism, does this mean that you may be more prone to gaining weight?

I have struggled with being overweight my entire life, and while I am positive I don't have diabetes, Type 1 or 2, I am not so sure that I don't have some sort of metabolic disorder. I've talked to my doctor all about what is diabetes, and my issues just don't seem to fit.

Do you think that my doctor may have missed something by not associating my sweet smelling urine with a metabolic problem? I am not sure if I should get a second opinion or not.

By popcorn — On Nov 07, 2011

Our family doctor diagnosed my sister with Type 1 diabetes due to the sweet smell in her urine. Apparently it is one of the easier signs to pick up on. We also learned that sweet smelling breath can be another sign of the disease.

When your body can't handle sugars, it seems like a lot of the noticeable symptoms relate to the chemical reactions in your body. I am just sad that we didn't notice my sister's symptoms soon.

Our grandmother actually has diabetes too, and she gave the family quite the scare last year when she went into a diabetic coma. You would think we would have been more alert to the signs of diabetes, with it running in our family.

By dfoster85 — On Nov 07, 2011

@surfNturf - People should not be afraid to look in the bowl! They need to know what's coming out. I've noticed the same thing about my urine. If I try not to drink much water because, for instance, I'm on a car trip, when I do finally go it will be darker and smellier.

Urine doesn't necessarily have to smell sweet for there to be too much sugar in it. Pregnancy women need to have their urine tested for both excess sugar (which can mean gestation diabetes) or excess protein (which can mean preeclampsia).

By surfNturf — On Nov 07, 2011

I was watching a health program the other day that discussed how you can learn about your health based on the smell and color of your urine.

The doctor on the show did say that sweet smelling urine could be diabetes, and he also indicated that when you have foul smelling urine that smells a little like ammonia it means that you are dehydrated.

He added that you could tell by the color of the urine if you are dehydrated or not. According to the doctor the urine should be light and very clear if you getting the right level of hydration. It is amazing the things that they can detect from your urine.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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