Bubbly Urine: When Should I Worry?

You might find this sign whenever you take a glance at the toilet bowl before flushing. When this happens once or twice, you might be troubled. But when this occurs too frequently, you get anxious that there might be something wrong with your kidneys. Foamy urine is an unfamiliar sign for you, and you hesitate about what to do next. Does foamy urine indicate a kidney problem? 


“Doctor, I have foamy urine. Is this serious? Do I have Diabetes? “

First of all, bubbles are frequently found in urine whenever you urinate. If a single layer of bubbles disappears within seconds, it is considered normal. But multiple layers of bubbles forming an opaque shade of white in the toilet bowl that does not go away after a couple of minutes is worrisome.


Proteinuria, commonly known as bubbly urine, is a condition where urine appears foamy or frothy due to the presence of excess protein. While many people associate bubbly urine with diabetes, it is essential to understand that diabetes is not the sole cause of this condition. In this blog post, we will explore the possible causes of bubbly urine and shed light on the relationship between proteinuria and diabetes.


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Proteinuria and Its Relationship with Diabetes
Proteinuria and Its Relationship with Diabetes

The main function of the kidneys is to filter waste products out of the blood while keeping important proteins such as albumin. After several years of high blood sugar levels or high blood pressure, the filter is damaged and proteins are leaked, leading to bubbles in the urine.


Foamy urine is therefore a sign of the presence of protein in the urine, meaning that the kidneys have become damaged. Diabetic nephropathy, which is the name given to the kidney disease caused by diabetes, induces a slow, over many years, deterioration of the renal function. Early detection and treatment are the main strategies to prevent this terrible consequence.

Symptoms of Proteinuria
Symptoms of Proteinuria

During the early stages, you might not have any symptoms. However, in the advanced stages of proteinuria, you might experience symptoms like: 

  • Swelling in your feet, face or belly or even puffiness around your eyes in the morning
  • Frequent urination
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling nauseous and vomiting
  • Lack of appetite


Foamy urine might be the only and most obvious symptoms you observe.

Foamy Urine and the other Possible Causes
Foamy Urine and the other Possible Causes

When should you worry when you found yourself in the morning with a puddle of bubbly urine? The first piece of advice is to ask yourself what other possibilities might contribute to this symptom.

  • It might be just normal: when a person excretes a large amount of urine at once, especially fast or forcefully, the air is then mixed with the urine, leading to a foamy appearance. The bubbles usually do not last more than a few seconds.

  • Dehydration: Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it takes in. In cases of dehydration, urine becomes concentrated, and waste particles such as sugar, salt, and proteins are in higher concentrations, causing foamy urine. Maintaining adequate hydration is crucial for maintaining normal urine consistency.

  • Intense physical activity: Strenuous exercise may cause temporary proteinuria due to increased muscle breakdown. It is essential to stay hydrated during and after the sporting activity.

  • Medications and Supplements: Some medications, such as phenazopyridine, which is a urinary analgesic (Pyridium, AZO Standard, Uristat, AZO), and dietary supplements might cause proteinuria. It is important to be aware of the potential side effects of medications and consult healthcare professionals regarding their usage. Excessive protein intake may also overload the kidneys' filtration capacity.

  • Interferences with other secretions: Mucus secretion from the vagina may contribute to the formation of foamy urine.

  • Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): This is caused by bacteria that usually enter the urethra and infect the urinary system. The most common infection is cystitis, which is an infection of the bladder. The bacteria fasten to the lining of the bladder and cause the area to become irritated and inflamed, which results in protein leakage and bubbly urine. If you experience frequent urination, pain or burning sensations during urination, and cloudy or foul-smelling urine with possibly foamy urine, seeking medical attention is advisable.

  • Kidney Diseases: Several kidney diseases, fortunately less frequent, may cause bubbly urine. Glomerulonephritis and nephrotic syndrome are examples of renal conditions that result in damage to the kidney's filtering units. If you notice persistent frothy urine, a medical assessment with an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment is crucial for managing these kidney diseases effectively.
When to Seek Medical Advice
When to Seek Medical Advice

If you notice persistent foamy urine or symptoms like bubbly urine, blood in urine, pain during urination, frequent urination, or any other accompanying symptoms such as swelling in your hands, feet, or face, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting, it is crucial to seek medical advice. The healthcare professional will perform investigation tests, including urine analysis, blood tests, and imaging studies, to determine the underlying cause of bubbly urine.

What Level of Proteinuria is Concerning?
What Level of Proteinuria is Concerning?
A small amount of protein is usually found in every day’s urine, and the normal level should be less than 150 mg of protein in the urine per day. When the level is higher than 150 mg, you have proteinuria, but that does not mean that you have a problem with your kidneys. As mentioned before, the doctor will need to conduct further tests to determine the underlying cause.
Pregnancy and Proteinuria
Pregnancy and Proteinuria

The classic cut-off to define proteinuria during pregnancy is a value greater than 300 mg/24 hours.


Preeclampsia is a condition that affects some pregnant women and is characterized by high blood pressure and protein in your urine. Fortunately, these signs are usually picked up during routine appointments, and most of the cases are mild. But some cases can lead to serious complications for both mother and baby, and close monitoring and treatment are then necessary.

Other Questions
Other Questions

Can proteinuria be controlled through diet? Can I not see a doctor?

Proteinuria cannot be controlled solely through diet. It is recommended to consult a doctor to evaluate the severity of proteinuria and determine the cause of it. Dietary adjustments might support kidney health, such as limiting excessive sodium, protein, and processed foods while increasing the intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. However, specific dietary recommendations should be made under the guidance of a doctor or a registered dietitian.


Is proteinuria avoidable?

Proteinuria might not be totally preventable, but some healthy advice might help to slow its occurrence:

  1. Follow a healthy lifestyle: maintain a balanced diet, stay hydrated, and exercise regularly.
  2. Manage underlying health conditions: Control conditions like diabetes and hypertension effectively.
  3. Avoid nephrotoxic substances: Use medications as instructed and limit exposure to substances harmful to the kidneys.
  4. Regular check-ups: Visit your healthcare provider for routine screenings to monitor your kidney function.


How does proteinuria affect our health?

Proteinuria, or excess protein in the urine, might indicate an underlying kidney problem and potential health risks. It is today widely accepted that proteinuria is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, especially in patients with diabetes. Its monitoring is essential to preserve the remaining renal function and minimize potential health complications. Treatment depends on what caused the proteinuria, but it is crucial to diagnose kidney disease before it leads to kidney failure.

While bubbly urine can be concerning, it is important to recognize that diabetes is not the sole cause of this condition. Proteinuria, characterized by increased urinary protein excretion, can be caused by various factors such as dehydration, excessive exercise, medications, urinary tract infections, and kidney diseases. Therefore, seeking medical attention is recommended for further assessment and appropriate treatment. The healthcare professional will guide you in managing and addressing the underlying cause of frothy urine effectively.
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