Mucus in Urine - Should You be Concerned?

Amanda Kauffman
Amanda Kauffman
March 27, 2023
4
min read
Technically reviewed by: 
Charisse Cartin
Mucus in Urine - Should You be Concerned?

Mucus in urine can appear as cloudy urine or white threads at the bottom of the toilet bowl after you pee. It is more frequently present in female urine samples due to cross-contamination from vaginal secretions. Occasional episodes of small amounts of mucus in urine have no clinical significance. However, too much mucus or frequent occurrence could indicate a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) or another medical condition, which can be evaluated using urinalysis.

What Are Mucus Threads in Urine?

Mucus threads in urine seen under a microscope.

Mucus is the slippery goo-like substance secreted from the body. Most people associate mucus with coughs or colds, but it's normal for a small amount of mucus to appear in the urine. That's because the bladder and urethra contain mucus membranes to help keep the urinary tract moist and protect the urinary tract lining from pathogens. When these membranes produce mucus, it mixes with urine before you go to pee.

However, larger amounts of mucus in the urine can result in visible stringy mucus threads collecting at the bottom of the toilet bowl or pee that looks unusually cloudy.

How To Test Mucus in Urine

A urine test — also called a urinalysis — can help determine the level of mucus in the urine to enable your healthcare provider to decide if there's cause for concern.

A urinalysis involves collecting a sample of pee in a specimen cup, which is then analyzed for the presence of certain cells, bacteria, and other chemicals. Sometimes, a sample is requested first thing in the morning because more concentrated urine is easier to analyze. Urine collection containers and instructions for male and female patients could differ to test mucus in urine.

There are three basic types of urine tests:

  • Visual exam. The lab will test the color and clearness of the urine, as well as the presence of any blood and foam, to assess any abnormalities visually.
  • Dipstick test. The lab will dip a thin, plastic stick with chemicals into the urine. Test pads on the stick will change color if a certain chemical is present at above-average levels. Please note that a urine dipstick test cannot detect mucus in the urine. However, it is a useful tool to check other urine parameters that could cause mucus threads in urine. They can check for abnormal pH and hydration levels as well as signs of UTI, kidney, and liver diseases.
  • Microscopic exam. Laboratory professionals will examine a small amount of urine under a microscope to check for things that can't be seen with the naked eye, like red blood cells, pus cells, bacteria, and mucus levels. A microscopic exam is almost always needed to confirm the presence of mucus in urine.

In addition to the above tests, your healthcare provider may decide to run other tests to rule out specific conditions or identify the best treatment regimen. If mucus in urine is caused by a urinary tract infection, a urine culture or urine PCR test may be necessary to find specific type of organism causing the infection. To assess kidney function, a urine protein test or albumin-to-creatine ratio test can help you determine the health of your kidneys and whether you have kidney stones.

Urine test strips and other home tests can offer peace of mind if there is mucus present in your urine due to a UTI or protein in the urine. Dipstick tests do not test specifically for mucus in urine but can be used to check other chemical properties of urine that may be causing mucus in your urine. Learn more about these tests here. If you have further questions, contact a healthcare provider.

How To Interpret Your Urine Mucus Lab Results

You'll likely receive a report from the laboratory after they analyze your urine for mucus and other potential signs of illness. Several areas of the report may indicate the presence or absence of mucus.

Laboratory results use four categories to classify the number of mucus threads in urine [8]:

  • Rare. Rare mucus in urine means that only trace amounts of this substance are present in the sample.
  • Few. It's normal for patients — especially women — to have a small amount of mucus threads in urine.
  • Moderate. This amount of mucus may be abnormal and indicate an underlying medical condition.
  • Many. A large quantity of mucus threads is unusual and could be a sign of a urinary tract infection, bladder cancer, kidney stones, or other diseases.

Some labs represent mucus threads in urine using a scale from 1+ to 4+, which corresponds to the categories listed above.

Testing the clarity of your urine is another way that healthcare providers check for mucus.

Laboratories typically use four classifications for urine clarity [9]:

  • Clear
  • Slightly cloudy
  • Cloudy
  • Turbid

Cloudy or turbid urine can be caused by mucus in urine; however, many other factors can contribute to cloudy urine. These may include prostatic, seminal, or vaginal fluids or higher-than-normal concentrations of white blood cells, yeast, phosphates, or carbonates in urine.

The color recorded on the laboratory report can also reveal if you have mucous in your urine. Healthy urine is straw-yellow. By contrast, urine that looks cloudy or milky white may contain mucus. This color can also be a symptom of a urinary tract infection [10].  

Consult your healthcare provider for a more detailed explanation of your urinalysis results. Your physician will review your results in light of other medical tests and assess if the mucus in your urine is benign or caused by a disease that needs treatment.

What Does Mucus in Urine Mean for Your Health?

Too much mucus in urine can be a sign of several medical conditions. Possibilities include:

  • Urinary tract infection (UTI): More likely if excess mucus present in urine appears alongside pain when peeing, blood in your pee, a more frequent need to pee, or lower abdominal pain. Learn more about UTI symptoms in this article.
  • Chlamydia or Gonorrhea: Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that may cause watery discharge, which often looks like mucus in urine.
  • Kidney stones: Mineral deposits that may pass out of your kidneys and into your urinary tract, prompting your body to produce mucus to expel them.
  • Bladder cancer (uncommon): A rare type of cancer called mucinous adenocarcinoma causes excessive mucus to develop in the bladder.

Large amounts of mucus threads or bloody mucus can be a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI) or another underlying medical condition.

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Considerations for Mucus in Urine Female

Analyzing mucus in urine can be more complicated for female patients. Healthy vaginas naturally secrete mucus, lactic acid, and vaginal flora. These secretions may contaminate a urine sample and lead to false positives [11].

For instance, the presence of mucus discharge in urine could cause healthcare providers to mistake normal vaginal mucus for proteinuria. This condition occurs when the body excretes abnormally high levels of protein in urine.  Similarly, lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacillales) may lead providers to mistakenly conclude that the patient has abnormal bacterial growth in their urine [11]. In women, a balanced urogenital flora (good bacteria) is vital to maintaining a healthy vagina.

Healthcare providers can verify the results of a woman's urinalysis by assessing her symptoms and reviewing a urine culture report [11].

Causes of Mucus in Urine Male

It's normal for men to have small amounts of mucus in their urine. However, several health conditions can cause mucus and other thick fluids to appear in men's urine, including:  

  • Prostatitis. Acute prostatitis occurs when the prostate gland gets infected by bacteria. This condition can cause thick discharge to secrete out of the penis from the urethra. This fluid may look like mucus in urine but comes from the prostate [12].
  • Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia. Also known as an enlarged prostate, this condition commonly affects men over the age of 40. Symptoms of an enlarged may include discharge from the urethra, unusually colored urine, and frequent urination [13].

Considerations in Children

Children can experience a condition called chyluria that occurs when milky fluid from the bowels leaks into the urinary tract. Chyluria makes urine appear cloudy or milky and could be mistaken for mucus [14].

Chyluria is a sign of an underlying health issue affecting the lymphatic system, such as cancer or a parasite. Parents should consult a doctor if their child develops this condition [14].

Learn how at-home urine testing can benefit your child’s health in this article.

When Should You Be Concerned About Mucus in Urine?

Seeing white stringy stuff in urine can be alarming, but it's normal to have a small amount of mucus in urine. However, you should consult your doctor if you have a large amount of mucus or if the quantity of mucus changes. These symptoms may be signs of a medical condition like prostatitis or bladder cancer.

Summary

Unusual white, thread-like structures in the urine could be due to mucus in the urine. Clinical diagnosis of mucus in urine requires a urinalysis test. A small amount of mucus in urine is normal and has no clinical significance. Excess mucus in urine can signify several medical conditions, and which one you have depends on your other symptoms and the overall results of your urinalysis. As a general rule, if excess mucus in urine appears alongside pain when peeing, a more frequent need to pee, lower abdominal pain, or blood in your pee, you could have a UTI. Other medical conditions that could lead to mucus in urine include sexually transmitted diseases and kidney stones.

References

[1] M. J. Bono, S.W. Leslie, W.C. Raygaert, "Urinary Tract Infection," Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing, 2022.

[2] D. Brennan, "How Do You Treat Mucus in Urine," MedicineNet, 2021.

[3]] D.A.Q. Milani and I. Jialal, "Urinalysis," Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing, 2022.

[4] X. Pan, L. Jin, T. He, J. Hu, J. Quan, L. Zhou, L. Ni, S. Yang, X. Mao, and Y. Lai (2016), "Mucinous adenocarcinoma of the bladder: A case report and review of the literature," Molecular and clinical oncology, 5(4), 447-448.

[5] M.C. Stöppler, "Kidney Stones (Nephrolithiasis)," MedicineNet, 2022.

[6] The University of Rochester Medical Center, "Chlamydia Trachomatis (Urine)."

[7] The University of Rochester Medical Center, "Gonorrhea (Urine)."

[8] F. Martínez Sáez, “Mucus in urine,” Mr. Labtest[Accessed October 2, 2023].

[9] Cleveland Clinic Staff, "Urinalysis," Cleveland Clinic. [Accessed October 2, 2023].

[10] MedlinePlus Staff, "Urine - abnormal color," MedlinePlus. [Accessed October 2, 2023].

[11] K. Czajkowski, M. Broś-Konopielko, and J. Teliga-Czajowska, "Urinary tract infection in women," Menopause Review/Przegląd Menopauzalny, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 40-47, 2021. [Accessed October 2, 2023].

[12] T. Hazell, "Acute Prostatitis," Patient. [Accessed October 2, 2023].  

[13] NIH Staff, "Prostate Enlargement (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia)," National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. [Accessed October 2, 2023].

[14] Nemours KidsHealth Staff, "Chyluria," Nemours KidsHealth. [Accessed October 2, 2023].

About the Author
Amanda Kauffman

Amanda Kauffman is a healthcare writer with a passion for providing accurate and useful information to readers. With a background in biology and nutrition, Amanda writes about the human body, diet, and diseases that impact humans.

She is deeply committed to empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their health, as she believes that our choices have a great impact on our health outcomes. This drives her to research and write about a wide range of topics, including preventive measures, treatments, and the latest scientific developments in healthcare.

Amanda is thrilled to be working with Diagnox, a company that shares her vision for improved healthcare delivery for all. Through her writing, she hopes to inspire and educate readers to take control of their health and make informed choices that will lead to a happier and healthier life.

About the Reviewer
This blog was
Technically reviewed by: 
Charisse Cartin

Charisse Cartin is a talented and dedicated editor who has contributed significantly to this blog.

The blog was also reviewed by the Diagnox content team. Diagnox Staff consists of a multidisciplinary team of scientists, content writers, and healthcare professionals with an expertise to create and review high-quality, informative, accurate, and easy-to-understand content for both professionals and everyday readers. Our staff follows strict guidelines to ensure the credibility and authenticity of the information, reviewing them independently and verifying them by various scientific and technical sources to ensure accuracy. Our review team believes in delivering knowledge free from bias to improve public health and well-being.

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