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It can be scary to see blood in urine, also called hematuria. In many cases, the cause is harmless. But blood in urine also can be a sign of a serious illness.
If you can see the blood, it’s called gross hematuria. Blood that can’t be seen with the naked eye is called microscopic hematuria. It’s such a small amount that it can be seen only under a microscope when a lab tests the urine. Either way, it’s important to figure out the reason for the bleeding.
Treatment depends on the cause
This condition happens when the kidneys or other parts of the urinary tract let blood cells leak into urine. Different problems can cause this leaking to happen, including:
A bladder or kidney stone. The minerals in urine can form crystals on the walls of the kidneys or bladder. Over time, the crystals can become small, hard stones.
The stones are often painless. But they can hurt a lot if they cause a blockage or leave the body through urine. Bladder or kidney stones can cause blood in urine that can be seen with the naked eye as well as bleeding that can be seen only in the lab.
Kidney disease. Blood in urine that can be seen only in the lab is a common symptom of a kidney disease called glomerulonephritis. With this disease, the tiny filters in the kidneys that remove waste from blood become inflamed.
Glomerulonephritis may be part of a condition that affects the whole body, such as diabetes. Or it can happen on its own.
Hard exercise. Blood in the urine can happen after playing contact sports, such as football. It may be linked to bladder damage caused by getting hit. Blood in urine also can happen with long-distance sports, such as marathon running, but it’s less clear why. It may be linked to bladder damage or other reasons that don’t involve an injury. When hard exercise causes blood in urine, it may go away on its own within a week.
If you see blood in your urine after exercise, don’t assume it’s from exercising. See your health care provider.
Often the cause of hematuria is unknown.
Almost anyone can have red blood cells in the urine. This includes children and teens. Some things that can raise the risk of blood in the urine include:
Blood in the urine can look pink, red or cola-colored. Red blood cells cause the urine to change color. It takes only a small amount of blood to turn urine red.
The bleeding often isn’t painful. But if blood clots get passed in the urine, that can hurt.
See a health care provider whenever urine looks like it might have blood in it.
Red urine isn’t always caused by red blood cells. Some medicines can cause urine to turn red, such as a medicine called phenazopyridine that eases urinary tract symptoms. Certain foods also can turn urine red, including beets and rhubarb.
It can be hard to tell whether a change of urine color is caused by blood. That’s why it’s always best to get a checkup.
These tests and exams play a key role in finding a cause for blood in the urine:
Sometimes the cause of blood in the urine can’t be found. In that case, you might need regular follow-up tests, mainly if you have risk factors for bladder cancer. These risk factors include smoking, radiation therapy to the pelvis or exposure to certain chemicals.
The treatment for blood in the urine depends on the cause. Treatment might involve:
In some cases, no treatment is needed.
If you get treatment, see your provider afterward to make sure there’s no more blood in your urine.
Treating blood in your urine depends strongly on the actual cause of the hematuria. Your provider will use the information collected from your medical history, physical exam and test results to work with you to find the best treatment.
You shouldn’t ever ignore blood in your urine. It’s important to contact a healthcare provider if you see blood in your urine or if you have other symptoms related to hematuria.
Health care professionals treat hematuria by treating the underlying cause of the hematuria. You may not need treatment if there is no serious condition causing your hematuria.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the most common cause of hematuria. Since the urinary tract is composed of the bladder, ureters, and kidneys, a UTI refers to an infection anywhere in that system. A bladder infection is called cystitis, and a kidney infection is called pyelonephritis