Finding blood in your urine can be a stressful experience. Here’s why it happens and what you should do.
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 nitrofurantoin, 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.
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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 conditions 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 may be painless but can sometimes block one of the tubes coming from the kidneys and lead to painful stomachaches
- 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, which is unrelated to prostate cancer. 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 is more likely to affect adults 50 years of age or older and may also bring frequent urination and pain when urinating.
- Kidney cancer. Also affecting adults 50 years of age or older, 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 Keck School of Medicine of USC.
- 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 at least 40 years old and keep finding blood in your urine
- You’re at least 50 years old, and there is unexplained non-visible blood in your urine
- If a lump is found in your stomach
- Non-visible hematuria is detected during a test (and protein is found in your urine)
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 being older than 50 years of age, smoking cigarettes or having been exposed to certain industrial chemicals.
In the event that you do need more advanced treatment USC Urology at Keck Medicine of USC offers cutting-edge procedures that have earned the program several accolades and have improved the lives of the many people afflicted with complex urologic conditions.
If you think you are detecting blood in your urine, it’s very important to contact your primary care physician as soon as possible.
by Ramin Zahed
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 https://keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/ to schedule an appointment.