What Does It Mean When There Is Blood in My Urine?

Blood in the urine, or hematuria, is a relatively common problem that occurs in several forms.

WHAT IT IS:

  • If there are only a small amount of red blood cells in the urine, the blood may only be visible under a microscope. In many cases of microscopic hematuria (blood only visible under the microscope), there is no serious underlying condition.
  • When the amount of red blood cells is higher, the blood may be visible and turn the urine a pink or cola color.
  • In more severe cases, the urine may be bright red or dark brown and contain clots. Regardless, blood in the urine can be a sign of a serious problem in the urinary tract and should be medically evaluated by a healthcare professional or urologist.
  • Certain food colorings and foods, like beets, berries, and rhubarb in large amounts, can cause urine to become pink in color.

WHO’S AFFECTED:
Up to ten percent of the population experiences hematuria at one point or another, with approximately three percent experiencing gross hematuria (or visible blood.)

  •  Women develop hematuria more often than men, since they have a greater chance of urinary tract infections, which can cause blood in the urine.
  • Older adults, especially men, are at a greater risk of hematuria than their younger counterparts due to the prostate enlarging with age.
  •  The most common source of blood in the urine is small blood vessels within the prostate that may spontaneously rupture.
  • Cancer risk increases with age too.
  • Many older male patients are more likely to be on medication that thins the blood and allows bleeding in the urinary tract to occur more easily.

CAUSES:
Hematuria has many different causes. It is usually a symptom of something larger, not a condition in itself. The following are some factors which may contribute to blood in the urine:

  • Stones in the kidney, ureter, or bladder
  • Kidney or bladder infections
  • Cancer of the kidney, bladder, or prostate
  • Kidney disease
  • Blood-clotting disorders
  • Trauma to the abdomen or pelvis, which traumatizes the kidney or bladder
  • Trauma to the urethra at the level of the penis or perineum
  • Medications
  • Chronic diseases, like diabetes, hypertension, or sickle cell anemia
  • Inflammation or enlargement of the prostate
  • Viral infections of the urinary tract
  • Blockage of the kidney
  • Cysts of the kidney
  • Strenuous exercise, a 20 percent incidence has been found in runners.

DIAGNOSIS
Blood in the urine, especially visible blood, should be medically investigated. This investigation will typically include a cystoscopic examination of the urethra and bladder, as well as an imaging study of the kidneys and ureters, such as with a CT scan, Intravenous Pyelogram, or renal ultrasound.

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