Discovering blood in your urine is never a welcomed sign. It can be anxiety-provoking causing you to panic of why it is happening. Medically, blood in urine is known as hematuria. While the sight of blood in urine is not automatically serious, it can be an important warning sign of a possible health condition.
What is Hematuria?
Hematuria, or blood in urine, indicates the presence of red blood cells which normally are not present in this fluid. It only takes a limited amount of blood to produce red urine, but usually the bleeding is not painful.
There are two types of hematuria: gross hematuria is when blood is visible making the urine look pink, red, or brown due to the presence of red blood cells. In microscopic hematuria, the blood in urine will only be visible under a microscope.
What causes Hematuria?
Your urinary tract (kidneys, ureter, and bladder) is responsible for producing, storing and eliminating urine, the fluid waste excreted by the kidneys. Everyday, your kidneys filter about 120 to 150 quarts of blood, to produce about 1 to 2 quarts of urine. To prevent blood from leaking into your urine, your kidneys have filters that prohibit this. As urine is produced, it travels from your kidneys through the ureters to your bladder, which holds it until you urinate. Once the bladder becomes full, the urine moves out of the bladder through the urethra tube located at the bottom of your bladder.
However, when there is a malfunction somewhere along the urinary tract, that’s when blood may sometimes find its way into your urine.
Some common causes of hematuria include:
- Vigorous or strenuous exercise
- Sexual activity
- Urinary tract infection
- Kidney infection
- Kidney or bladder stones
- Bacterial or viral infection
- Kidney or bladder cancer
- Inflammation of the bladder, kidney, prostate or urethra
- Mineral imbalances in urine
- Polycystic kidney disease
What are the symptoms of Hematuria?
If you have gross hematuria, the main symptom will be seeing blood in your urine. As stated earlier, passing blood is generally not painful; however passing blood clots in your urine can be painful.
Possible other symptoms you may experience is frequent, painful or urgent urination, nausea, vomiting, fever or pain in your abdomen.
How is Hematuria diagnosed?
The diagnosis of hematuria can be accomplished in several ways. First, your doctor will want to do a complete medical history ruling out any health conditions, medications, or other factors causing blood in your urine. A physical exam will follow by checking your abdomen for tenderness, bloating or other abnormalities.
To detect blood in your urine, you need to provide a urine sample in a container, for an investigation called urinalysis. The lab technician inserts a dipstick, which is a strip of chemically treated paper, in the urine sample. A chemical reaction happens if RBCs are present, which causes spots on the dipstick to change color. This leads lab analysts to further examine the urine, by placing it under the microscope and studying it.
If the lab results indicate severe circumstances, you may be subject to further tests: CT scans, kidney biopsy, a complete blood count, abdominal ultrasound or a cystoscopy. The later is a simple 5 to 10 minutes procedure, during which a tube with light is inserted in the bladder, throught the urethra. The doctor will insert water or saline that dilates the bladder wall, for a clearer view and an accurate diagnosis. Cystoscopies are a common procedure for affections of the bladder or urethra, especially if the patient presents blood in their urine.
Depending on the diagnosis, your doctor will create a personalized treatment plan. Hematuria doesn’t always present itself as a medical condition, so you may not require any treatment. You may be issued antibiotics if you’re dealing with an urinary tract infection, or with more serious treatments if the issue is more severe (kidney or prostate infection, prostate or bladder cancer).
In severe conditions such as cancer, surgery may be necessary to remove the tumor of the affected organ.
Making lifestyle changes such as improving your diet and getting more exercise may be another form of treatment your doctor may suggest.