What Is Blood in Urine (Hematuria)?
If blood is detected in your urine, you may be suffering from a medical condition known as hematuria. The blood may be visible to the naked eye, causing the urine to appear pink, red, or brown, or it may only be detected by laboratory testing. Hematuria can indicate underlying kidney disease and requires medical intervention.
Hematuria can be classified into two main types: gross hematuria and microscopic hematuria. Gross hematuria is when the blood in the urine is visible to the naked eye, which can be alarming for most patients. Microscopic hematuria, on the other hand, is not visible to the naked eye and is detected when urine is tested for blood and seen under a microscope. As a result, patients may not experience any symptoms. Usually, the discovery of microscopic hematuria occurs during a health screening test or a routine check-up.
Possible Causes of Hematuria
There are multiple contributing factors and causes of hematuria, ranging from benign conditions to serious medical diseases. Common causes of hematuria include:
► Urinary tract infections: Urinary tract infections (UTI), can emerge in the bladder, the kidneys, or the urethra, causing irritation and inflammation.
► Kidney stones: Kidney stones are hard, solid mineral deposits that develop in the kidneys and can cause excruciating discomfort. When they move through the urinary tract, they can scratch or irritate the lining, leading to blood in the urine.
► Enlarged prostate: An enlarged prostate can contribute pressure to the bladder and urethra, leading to blood in the urine.
► Cancer: Bladder, kidney, and prostate cancer can cause hematuria. At times, blood in urine is the only symptom of early-stage cancer.
► Inherited disorders: Some inherited conditions and disorders, such as sickle cell anaemia and Alport syndrome, can cause hematuria.
► Medications: Certain medications, such as blood thinners, aspirin, and antibiotics, can cause blood in the urine.
► Physical activity: Strenuous exercise like long-distance running may sometimes cause hematuria.
A kidney specialist will perform a physical exam, take a medical history, and order laboratory and imaging tests to diagnose hematuria. The specific tests ordered depend on the patient’s symptoms and medical history. Some of the procedures and tests that are carried out include:
► Urine analysis tests: This first step test involves analyzing a sample of the patient’s urine to look for the presence of blood, white blood cells, and other substances. Further tests may be ordered if blood is detected in the urine.
► Imaging tests: Imaging tests, such as ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI, may be used to examine the kidneys and urinary tract. These tests can help identify problems such as kidney stones, tumors, or structural abnormalities.
► Cystoscopy: In some cases, a cystoscopy may be necessary to examine the bladder and urethra. A small camera is threaded through the urethra and into the bladder to detect any irritation, infection, or other problems.
► Blood tests: Blood tests may be ordered to evaluate kidney function and detect any abnormalities contributing to the hematuria.
► Biopsy: If cancer is suspected, a biopsy may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis. A small tissue sample is removed from the affected area and examined under a microscope during a biopsy.
Treatment Options for Hematuria
Hematuria may require extensive testing in some cases. If the blood in urine is persistent, severe, or accompanied by other symptoms, further tests may be necessary to determine the underlying cause and recommendation for appropriate treatment. For example, if a urinary tract infection causes hematuria, the patient may be treated with antibiotics. If the cause of hematuria is kidney stones, the stones may need to be removed surgically or passed naturally. If the hematuria is caused by cancer, the patient will need to undergo cancer treatment which may require surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.
Not all hematuria is necessarily a medical emergency or requires treatment. Hematuria caused by exercise, for instance, is typically harmless and resolves on its own. However, if you see blood in urine, it is crucial to get it checked by a doctor to rule out any medical emergencies.
The presence of blood in urine warrants prompt medical attention, and your specialist will work with you to determine the underlying cause and recommend the appropriate treatment. In some situations, timely medical care is essential to avoid potentially fatal health issues. Speak to your doctor if you’re worried about hematuria or have any queries related to kidney conditions.