Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen
Additions/comments by Urologist Steven N. Gange, MD
If you’re suddenly seeing blood in your urine, don’t panic–but make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. In this article, we’ll talk about the many different reasons for blood in the urine (also called “hematuria.”)
Red-colored urine is certainly cause for concern, and it’s something that should be mentioned to your doctor. Sometimes, blood in the urine can be a sign of a serious disease or condition that can be life-threatening, such as cancer. But in many cases, blood in the urine is completely harmless. The only way to know for certain is to get yourself examined by a medical professional.
The most common cause of hematuria is infection, which can target your bladder, your urinary tract, or your kidneys. An infection can usually be treated with antibiotics and rarely leads to complications unless not dealt with properly. If the infection starts in the urinary tract and spreads to the kidneys, it can cause serious damage.
Kidney or bladder stones
Another cause of hematuria is kidney or bladder stones. Your urine contains many concentrated minerals, which can harden and form into stones in your kidneys or bladder over time. These stones are not life-threatening but can be incredibly painful. Drinking enough water and urinating frequently can help prevent kidney or bladder stones.
Hematuria can also be caused by an enlarged prostate. Middle-aged men often have an enlarged prostate gland, which can compress the urethra and block the flow of urine, leading to a urinary tract infection. Some signs of an enlarged prostate include difficulty urinating, a frequent need to urinate, and blood in the urine.
Although uncommon, blood in the urine can be a sign of kidney disease (also referred to as “glomerulonephritis.”) Kidney disease can be caused by a different disease entirely, such as diabetes, blood vessel disease, or immune system problems.
Hematuria can also be caused by a number of cancers affecting the bladder, kidneys, or prostate. Once these cancers have reached an advanced stage, they can cause urinary bleeding.
Some inherited genetic disorders such as sickle cell anemia or Alport syndrome can cause blood in the urine.
If you’ve recently taken a blow to your kidneys, you may have blood in your urine.
Some medications like penicillin or the cancer drug cyclophosphamide can lead to urinary bleeding. If you’re taking an anticoagulant drug like aspirin or heparin, you may also have hematuria.
Although rare, intense strenuous exercise can cause blood in the urine. Runners in particular have a higher likelihood of encountering blood in their urine, although it’s not known why. Dehydration or bladder trauma are two possible theories.
No matter why you think you have blood in your urine, it could always be caused by something else you don’t know about. To be on the safe side, always see your doctor if you’re experiencing hematuria.