Finding blood in your urine can be a stressful experience. Here’s why it happens and what you should do.

Finding blood in your urine can be a stressful experience. There are many different reasons why this happens, but it’s important not to panic.

Finding blood in your urine does not automatically signal a life-threatening disease, but normally, healthy urine should not contain any detectable amounts of blood. It’s important to contact your general practitioner if you notice bright red blood in your urine or if your urine has turned red or brown because it has blood in it.

First, make sure it’s blood!

Of course, you have to make sure that it’s definitely blood that is coloring your urine. Sometimes, consuming food dye or an excessive amount of beets can also color your urine. Also, some medicines, such as aspirin, the antibiotic nitro furantoin, penicillin or rifampicin may be the reason urine looks red or brown. Women are also advised to be certain that the blood is coming from the urine and not the vagina or rectum.

What is hematuria?

Hematuria is simply the medical name for blood in urine. If you can see it with the naked eye, it’s macroscopic or visible hematuria. If you need lab tests to detect the blood, then it’s “microscopic” or “non-visible” hematuria.

Why are you bleeding?

The blood in your urine must have originated from somewhere within the urinary tract (the kidneys, bladder or the tubes through which urine passes). This is often the result of a urinary tract infection (UTI), such as cystitis.

There are various ailments and serious diseases that may cause blood in urine. Common ones include:

  • Bladder infection (such as cystitis), which also often causes a burning pain when you urinate
  • Kidney infection, which also may be accompanied by a high temperature and pain in the side of the abdomen
  • Kidney stones, which they may be painless but can sometimes block one of the tubes coming from the kidneys and lead to painful stomach aches
  • Urethritis, or inflammation of the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body. It is often caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as chlamydia.
  • Enlarged prostate gland. This has nothing to do with prostate cancer. It’s a common condition in older men. An enlarged prostate gland will press on the bladder and may also lead to problems such as difficulty urinating and a frequent need to urinate.
  • Bladder cancer. This usually happens to adults over the age of 50 and may also bring frequent urination and pain when urinating.
  • Kidney cancer. Also affecting adults over 50, it can cause persistent pain below the ribs and a lump in the stomach area.
  • Prostate cancer. This usually happens only to men over the age of 50, and it progresses very slowly. Other symptoms may include needing to urinate more frequently and urgently, and having difficulty emptying the bladder. “Prostate cancer is a silent disease, so even if you are not showing symptoms and are a male over the age of 55, you should get screened,” says Andre K. Berger, MD, assistant professor of clinical urology at the USC Institute of Urology.
  • Sickle cell anemia, cystic kidney disease or similar hereditary illnesses
  • A tumor in the bladder, kidney or prostate
  • Kidney injury resulting from a recent accident or through sports

Your doctor can help

After you tell your doctor about your symptoms, you can take a physical examination to find out why there is blood in your urine. In addition to urine and blood tests, you also may need imaging tests.

You may be prescribed some antibiotics if they detect an infection, and you may be sent to a specialist for a number of reasons:

  • There is visible blood in your urine and no sign of infection
  • You’re over 40 and keep finding blood in your urine
  • You’re over 50 and there is unexplained non-visible blood in your urine
  • If a lump is found in stomach
  • Non-visible haematuria is detected during a test (and protein is found in your urine)

Treatment

In most cases, treatment isn’t needed unless your doctor detects a serious condition tied to the blood in your urine. If no cause is found during your first evaluation, you should do a follow-up test and get your blood pressure monitored every three to six months, especially if you have risk factors for bladder cancer, such as if you’re over age 50, smoke cigarettes or have been exposed to certain industrial chemicals.

In the event that you do need more advanced treatment, the USC Institute of Urology at Keck Medicine of USC offers cutting-edge procedures that have earned the program several accolades and improved the lives of the many people afflicted with complex urologic conditions.

By Ramin Zahed

If you think you are detecting blood in your urine, it’s very important to contact your primary care physician as soon as possible.

If you are local to Southern California and are in search of a primary care physician, call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit http://keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/ to schedule an appointment.