Blue urine? Really? Blue? Yes. Your pee can actually have a bluish tinge to it under certain conditions. At the most extreme, your urine can even look like blue glass cleaner… more on that later, but under most conditions, your urine might display a pale bluish tinge. So, what could cause blue urine?
Blue urine color is usually a pale blue color and most likely caused by foods you have eaten lately or medications you are taking. In other words, dyes are the most likely reason you’d be seeing blue in the toilet, and you would have to have an extremely high concentration of dye to significantly discolor your urine beyond a very pale color. Medications and drugs are a typical cause of blue urine, since many of these contain dyes. Methylene Blue is a fairly common dye used in prescription drugs, and it is also used as an indicator dye for medical analysis. Think of the little blue pill that some men take to help them out with erectile dysfunction. Yes, we’re talking about Viagra. Some medications, can have a side effect of temporarily changing your urine color to blue.
There are few known diseases that would cause a blue urine color, so if your urine looks blue, it is most likely related to something you have ingested.
Although porphyria is really a set of eight or more disorders that vary in symptoms, they all share the common feature of accumlated porphyrins in the body (for more information on porphyria, you can visit the American Porphyria Foundation). The word porphyria comes from the Greek porphyrus, which means purple. And that’s what can happen to your urine color. It can turn it to a red or purple urine color, but usually not blue urine. Although some people have trouble distinguishing the difference between some shades of purple and blue, so that would account for some of the confusion that some may think porphyria causes a blue urine color. The confusion between blue and purple may also explain why some people can’t seem to match clothes very well.
King George III is well known for his insanity in his later years, but is perhaps less well known for his blue urine. This probably was not a rousing topic of conversation around the royal dinner table. How do they know it was blue? While it may not have been easily visible in normal urine, it left a ring around the chamber pot. What though, could have been the cause of this blue urine? There are two theories on this. For one, King George suffered temporary, and later permanent, mental illness as a result of porphyria. That prophyria could have given his urine a purple-ish color, that may have been reported as blue. But it seems there was another source perhaps more likely the cause of his blue pee. Surely, the dyes and preservatives we use today were not as prevalent back in the time of King George III. No, but you know what was in abundance back then? At least at King George III’s table? Turkey… and other poultry, and lots of it. Most of us are familiar with the sleepy state we experience after eating turkey. The same chemical (actually an amino acid) that helps creates the sleepy feeling also can cause blue urine. Yes, tryptophan, an essential part of our diet, and found in many foods other than poultry as well, when consumed in doses much higher than normal consumption, can in fact cause your urine to turn a blue color. But not by itself, no, it’s much more glamorous than that. Normally, the tryptophan would leave your body before it could build up enough to enter into your liver. But lets say you had a way to stop it up… say… with constipation. Well, then the brewing rotting mass seeps into your liver, which in turn processes in your urine. The doctors of King George III did not understand all this at the time, but they certainly knew the blue ring around the glass of the chamber pot was a bit unusual, and they did record that the king was suffering from constipation. Thanks to their notes, scientists have been able to create this glorious visual imagery that we have today. Now why is this not a part of every world history book the kids read in school?
Ok, we promised to talk about the glass cleaner blue urine color and how that could happen. Well, it’s not so much a seemingly random occurrence as it more likely a prank someone might play. DISCLAIMER: Now, we’ll say this right up front. We do not advocate this type of behavior, or should we say, tom foolery. Taking doses of any chemical for amusement purposes tends to be a bad idea… and less than amusing for the person should medical issues arise from its use. So, what are some less-than-safety conscious people doing? Have you heard of Methylene Blue? It comes in green powder form but dissolves into liquid turning a bright blue, almost electric blue color. It is a dye, such as a staining agent or an indicator and a reducing agent, used in biology and chemistry practices, and some medicinal uses. In fact it was at one time used to treat malaria. This may be where some people learned this trick. You see, the side effect of using this to treat malaria is that your pee turned green and the whites of your eyes, shaded a little blue. Well, some “geniuses” (read: non-safety conscious people) found that if you ingest a larger, non-medically safe quantity of methylene blue, it will turn your pee to a glass-cleaner-like blue color. It’s reported to be vile in taste and difficult to hide in a drink, so one trick someone has used is to fold some of this chemical into some soft squishy white bread, compact it tight, and swallow it like a pill. We mentioned, this is may not be safe, right? So, what’s the danger? Well, aside from choking on a bread ball, methylene blue, ingested in larger than medicine doses can have adverse affects like serotonin toxicity or syndrome, basically an adverse drug interaction when mixed with serotonin inhibitors.. This can be life threatening, so don’t be an idiot. In smaller doses delivered in medicines, you will still probably notice a blue tinge to your urine, just not the crazy glass cleaner blue color.
In all seriousness, if you’re ingesting chemicals for the purpose of changing the color of your urine… you need a new, much safer, hobby.