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.
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.
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
- 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.
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.