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What Is Urine Concentration?

Urine concentration refers to the amount of solutes, like salts and waste products, in your urine. It's a key indicator of hydration and kidney health, varying from light to dark as your body retains or expels water. Intrigued by how your hydration habits influence your health? Discover the visual cues and what they mean for your well-being as you read on.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Urine concentration is the collection of waste materials in urine for excretion by the body. The ability to concentrate soluble waste is important to one's overall health, as it allows the body to eliminate it without losing vital fluids. Very young organisms tend to have trouble concentrating their urine and need more water to support themselves. Likewise, illness can interfere with this process and may result in the production of very dilute urine.

This process takes place in the kidneys. Blood flows into the kidneys and through a network of structures known as nephrons that allow fluid and salts to flow across a semi-permeable membrane. When the body has excess salts and other materials it needs to eliminate, these pass readily through, leaving fluid behind. If there is too much fluid, the nephrons can excrete this across the membrane.

A hemodialysis machine, which can be used to treat problems with urine concentration.
A hemodialysis machine, which can be used to treat problems with urine concentration.

Waste materials are prepared for elimination, while materials the body still uses can be recycled and sent into the bloodstream through the process of reabsorption. The amount of urine concentration that occurs depends on the hydration levels in the body and the production of a compound known as antidiuretic hormone, or vasopressin. This hormone triggers the kidneys to retain water, leading to more concentrated urine.

A urine sample for a urinalysis.
A urine sample for a urinalysis.

The body regulates urine concentration to maintain a stable balance of fluids and salts in the blood chemistry. People who are dehydrated tend to produce extremely concentrated urine which may be dark, with a strong odor. Dehydrated bodies need water, and can afford to excrete only a small amount to get rid of waste materials. After water loading, like drinking lots of water during sports to stay hydrated, the body may excrete relatively dilute urine.

The color of a person's urine can show how hydrated they are.
The color of a person's urine can show how hydrated they are.

Health conditions can adversely affect urine concentration. Kidney damage may make it harder to filter the blood, which creates excessive thirst and very dilute urine. Patients who cannot concentrate their urine need ample supplies of water to flush unnecessary salts out of their bloodstream. Eventually, they may become so impaired that they require external hemodialysis to filter their blood. Such patients may ultimately need a kidney transplant.

In a urinalysis test, the lab usually issues a report on the urine's concentration. Patients may also be asked to take a urine concentration test after doing something like refraining from drinking, water loading, or taking antidiuretic hormone. This test shows how the kidneys perform under strain, which can provide important insight into a patient's health.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

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

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

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

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

SarahGen

I had to take pain relievers and muscle relaxers last week. My urine changed so much during this time. It was so dark and had an odd smell to it.

This happens when I take a vitamin B complex too, my urine becomes orange. I heard that some foods can do the same thing.

SteamLouis

@burcidi-- Like the article said, dark urine with a strong odor means that your urine is very concentrated. This is not good because it shows that toxins are staying in your body longer than they need to. You need to drink more water to eliminate these toxins regularly.

Ideally, urine should be a very light color, almost clear and it shouldn't have a strong odor. You should drink more water until you see this with your urine.

It's normal for urine to be slightly darker and with odor in the morning since most of us don't drink water at night. This might also be the case if you're taking medications because those are excreted through urine as well. Try and drink more water during the day to make up for it.

burcidi

How can I tell from my urine concentration if I'm drinking the right amount of water?

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    • A hemodialysis machine, which can be used to treat problems with urine concentration.
      By: beerkoff
      A hemodialysis machine, which can be used to treat problems with urine concentration.
    • A urine sample for a urinalysis.
      By: Restyler
      A urine sample for a urinalysis.
    • The color of a person's urine can show how hydrated they are.
      By: anyaivanova
      The color of a person's urine can show how hydrated they are.