Everyday Life | Active living
What Causes Blood In Urine
Discovering blood in your urine can be alarming. This condition, known as haematuria, can range from barely noticeable traces - only detectable through specific tests - to clearly visible discolouration such as shades of pink or red. Understanding the underlying causes and implications of haematuria is crucial for your health and peace of mind. In this article, you will learn about what causes blood in urine, if this is a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI) and how this can be prevented.
Underlying Causes Of Haematuria
Blood in urine can be caused by various factors, and it's essential to seek professional advice to determine the root cause if you notice blood in your own urine. There are many possible reasons for it to occur.
Infections in the bladder, kidneys, prostate, or urethra are common culprits. Inflammation, such as cystitis (bladder inflammation) or glomerulonephritis (kidney inflammation), can result in blood in the urine. Traumatic injuries to the bladder or kidney can also be a cause as well as, in men, injuries to the prostate. Finally, both bladder and kidney cancers can cause haematuria.
Additionally, both kidney and bladder stones can lead to blood in the urine. In children, a condition known as post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis, which is a kidney issue following a strep throat infection, is a prevalent cause of haematuria. Other kidney disorders - like polycystic kidney disease or outright kidney failure - can also lead to this condition. Furthermore, recent medical procedures, such as catheterisation, surgeries, or kidney biopsies, can cause temporary haematuria.
Another area of concern is bleeding disorders and medications. Haemophilia - a genetic disorder - can cause prolonged bleeding, which can manifest as blood in the urine. Blood clots in the kidneys can also lead to haematuria. Certain medications - especially blood thinners like aspirin or warfarin - can be the cause. Other conditions, such as sickle cell disease or thrombocytopenia – which causes a low platelet count - can also result in haematuria.
Lastly, you should also know that, sometimes, what appears to be blood in the urine might originate from other areas. For women, this could be due to vaginal bleeding. Consider following our advice on the correlation between pregnancy and incontinence here for further assistance.
For men, ejaculation issues - often linked to prostate problems - can be the cause. Even the digestive system can play a role, with blood from a bowel movement appearing in the urine. Additionally, certain foods, like beetroot, or specific medications can turn the urine red, mimicking the appearance of haematuria.
Symptoms Of Haematuria
When you experience blood in your urine, the urine can appear in various shades ranging from pink and red to a deep cola colour. It's the presence of red blood cells that causes this change. Surprisingly, it requires only a small amount of blood to give urine a noticeable red tint. Often, the bleeding associated with haematuria is painless.
However, if blood clots are passed during urination, it can result in discomfort or pain.
What does the colour of your urine mean for your health? This is an important question to ask yourself, as a colour change in your urine can indicate a potential health issue.
Risk Factors For Haematuria
While anyone, including children and teenagers, could find blood in their urine, certain factors elevate the risk of experiencing haematuria:
Age: Men who are middle-aged or older might be more susceptible to haematuria due to an enlarged prostate gland, as well as other bladder problems. Additionally, the risk of certain cancers – which are potential causes blood the in urine – increases after the age of 50.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): A UTI is among one of the primary causes of visible blood in children's urine.
Family History: If kidney disease is prevalent in your family, the likelihood of having blood in the urine can increase.
Medications: Some medications, including specific pain relievers, blood thinners, and antibiotics, can elevate the risk of haematuria.
Excessive Training: Intense physical activities, such as marathons, have given rise to terms like “marathon runner's haematuria.” Engaging in contact sports can also increase the risk.
Consultation And Diagnosis
If you have blood in your urine, a GP will ask about your symptoms and may need to carry out a rectal examination, and a vaginal examination if you are a woman.
The GP might:
Request a urine sample or schedule a blood test.
Prescribe antibiotics if an infection, like a UTI, is suspected.
Refer you to a specialist for further tests.
A GP may recommend incontinence pads if you are also having symptoms of incontinence, for extra protection.
Additional diagnostic tests could include:
CT Scan: This advanced X-ray can identify issues like tumours, stones, or other abnormalities in the bladder, kidneys, or ureters.
Kidney Ultrasound: This process involves utilising sound waves, and provides a visual representation of the kidneys.
Cystoscopy: A small tube equipped with a camera is inserted into the bladder via the urethra. This allows the doctor to inspect the bladder's interior and, if necessary, take tissue samples to check for abnormalities or cancerous cells.
Kidney (Renal) Biopsy: In this procedure, a sample of kidney tissue is taken, then examined under a microscope to detect signs of kidney diseases.
Complications Associated With HaematuriaWhile treatments for the causes of haematuria might have side effects that can vary depending on the specific treatment given, leaving haematuria untreated can lead to more severe complications. This is especially true if the underlying cause is more critical than, say, intense physical activity. Book an appointment with your GP as soon as you notice blood in your urine, as early detection leads to better outcomes.
Who Is At Risk
Some people are more likely to experience blood in their urine than others. Those with pre-existing conditions known to cause haematuria, such as urinary infections, urological anatomical abnormalities, family histories of urologic diseases, and specific genetic conditions, are at a higher risk of developing the condition. Additionally, the intake of certain medications, like blood thinners and specific pain relievers, can elevate the risk, though this shouldn't prevent you from getting a medical examination from your GP as well just to be sure.
Certain activities in your lifestyle can increase the likelihood of haematuria as well. These include smoking, overuse of pain medications, exposure to radiation or specific chemicals, occupational hazards involving metals, fumes, dyes, or rubbers, long-distance running or jogging, vigorous sexual activity, and extreme dehydration.
Drinking the daily recommended amount of water per day (6-8 cups), will benefit the urinary tract and your overall health, as well as these other bladder-friendly drinks. When dehydrated, urine tends to darken in colour, and in severe cases, it might even contain blood.
Concluding Our Advice About Blood In Your UrineOverall, it is important to know that blood in your urine is not uncommon. While it can be an early sign of infection, such as cystitis, it can also be a symptom of worse conditions such as bladder cancer. Whether it's a subtle shade change or a noticeable red tint, any sign of blood in your urine warrants medical attention to ensure optimal health outcomes.
Is it ever normal to have blood in your urine?
No, it's not considered "normal" to have blood in your urine. While it might not always indicate a serious medical condition, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional to determine the cause and get a proper diagnosis.
How often is blood in urine serious?
While blood in the urine can sometimes be due to less severe causes like strenuous exercise, infections, or certain medications, it can also be a sign of more serious conditions like cancers of the bladder or kidney. It's estimated that in about 1 in 10 cases, blood in the urine (especially if it's visible) might be linked to bladder or kidney cancer. However, the exact frequency can vary based on age, gender, and other risk factors. It's essential to consult a doctor if you notice blood in your urine, even if it's just once.