Seeing blood in your urine can cause more than a little anxiety. Yet blood in urine — known medically as hematuria — isn't always a matter for concern. Strenuous exercise can cause blood in urine, for instance. So can a number of common drugs, including aspirin. But urinary bleeding can also indicate a serious disorder.
There are two types of blood in urine. Blood that you can see is called gross hematuria. Urinary blood that's visible only under a microscope is known as microscopic hematuria and is found when your doctor tests your urine. Either way, it's important to determine the reason for the bleeding.
Treatment depends on the underlying cause. Blood in urine caused by exercise usually goes away on its own within one or two days, but other problems often require medical care.
The urinary tract is made up of your bladder, your two kidneys and two ureters, and the urethra. The kidneys remove waste and excess fluid from your blood and convert it to urine. The urine then flows through two hollow tubes (ureters) — one from each kidney — to your bladder, where urine is stored until it passes out of your body through the urethra.
In hematuria, your kidneys — or other parts of your urinary tract — allow blood cells to leak into urine. A number of problems can cause this leakage, including:
The visible sign of hematuria is pink, red or cola-colored urine — the result of the presence of red blood cells. It takes very little blood to produce red urine, and the bleeding usually isn't painful. If you're also passing blood clots in your urine, that can be painful. A lot of times, though, bloody urine occurs without other signs or symptoms.
In many cases, you can have blood in your urine that's visible only under a microscope (microscopic hematuria).
To find a cause for urinary bleeding, the following tests and exams play a key role:
In spite of testing, the cause of urinary bleeding may never be found. In that case, your doctor is likely to recommend regular follow-up tests, especially if you have risk factors for bladder cancer, such as smoking, exposure to environmental toxins and a history of radiation therapy.
Hematuria has no specific treatment. Instead, your doctor will focus on the underlying condition:
Although many cases of hematuria aren't serious, it's important to see your doctor any time you notice blood in your urine. Keep in mind that some medications, such as the laxative Ex-lax, and certain foods, including beets, rhubarb and berries, can cause your urine to turn red. A change in urine color caused by drugs, food or exercise usually goes away within a few days. However, you can't automatically attribute red or bloody urine to medications or exercise, so it's best to see your doctor anytime you see blood in your urine.
It's generally not possible to prevent hematuria, though there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of some of the diseases that cause it. Prevention strategies include: