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​Seniors Matter(s): Oops, what to do if you see it!

October 18, 2023

It sounds strange, but you may not always know that you have blood in your urine. Sometimes, there’s so little that it only shows up under a microscope when your doctor is testing you for something else.

When you can see it, it can be alarming. But most of the time, the causes aren’t serious. In some cases, though, the symptom points to a bigger health problem. So, you should always let your doctor know about it.

A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) happens when bacteria infects the parts of your body that make and store urine, such as your bladder or urethra. Along with seeing blood, you might feel like you must go all the time, and it could burn when you do.

In serious cases, you may have pain in your belly or groin. But sometimes, especially if you’re older, you may not have any symptoms. UTIs are very common, and antibiotics can usually clear them up.

A UTI can make its way to your kidneys through the connecting tubes of the urinary tract. The symptoms are often similar, but with a kidney infection, you’re more likely to have a fever and pain in your sides. And it can be more serious, especially if it spreads to other parts of your body. So be sure to let your doctor know if you notice the signs.

Kidney stones start when your body has built up too much calcium or other minerals. And they can really hurt, especially in your back near your hips and ribs, if they grow big enough. You might see blood or even a piece of a stone in your urine. Smaller ones sometimes “pass” on their own in your urine, but you might need surgery to get rid of larger ones.

A swollen prostate can occur because infection, surgery, or a sudden hit to this small gland near a man’s bladder, could inflame it. Besides seeing blood, you may find it hard or painful to urinate. You also might have pain in your groin and lower belly when you pass stool or ejaculate. Treatment depends on the cause, but you might need antibiotics or pain medicines.

Kidney inflammation, also called glomerulonephritis, can damage the tiny filters in your kidneys. That makes it harder for them to get rid of waste. People usually don’t know they have it until their doctor detects it with a urine test. But your urine may have blood or look foamy and brownish, and you may notice swelling in your face, legs, and belly. The issue may get better on its own, but if it doesn’t, treatment can prevent kidney damage.

A work-out that is literally too strenuous can cause blood in urine. It tends to affect runners more than other athletes. But it’s not that common, and doctors don’t know exactly why it happens. It might be a lack of water, injury to the bladder, or the breakdown of more red blood cells in aerobic exercise.

Some drugs, such as the antibiotic penicillin or the cancer drug cyclophosphamide, can cause blood in your urine. It also might happen if you take such medications as aspirin or the blood-thinner heparin, especially if you already have a condition, such as a urinary tract infection, that makes your bladder bleed more easily.

A hard hit, typically in your lower back area, can make blood show up in your urine. It might happen in a fall or a car accident or if something heavy hits you. Often it gets better on its own with rest, though a doctor should keep an eye on you to make sure you’re recovering well. If your injury is severe, you may need surgery.

Blood in the urine is a key sign of bladder cancer. It also may be a sign of kidney or prostate cancer. In some cases, you might not have any other symptoms. That’s one reason why it’s important to let your doctor know when you notice any blood. The physician can rule out more serious conditions or start any treatment you may need.

To find out why there’s blood in your urine, your doctor will examine you and ask about your health and family history. A lab will test your urine for red blood cells, infection, and other possible problems. In some cases, your doctor may test your blood or take pictures of your kidney or bladder with a CT scan, MRI, or a special camera called a cystoscope. Sometimes, your doctor may need to test a sample of your urine for cancer cells.

The right treatment depends on what’s causing the symptom. An infection can be cleared up with antibiotics. Different cancers require different approaches, and genetic diseases may need long-term management. Talk to your doctor about what kind of treatment is likely to help you.

Stay aware, stay safe.

‘Till next time!

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