Blood in your urine can be a startling sight, one that prompts concern over your health. While it doesn’t always mean something serious, several serious things can cause it. And that means you should contact your doctor right away.
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It’s also important to understand what’s going on in your body. You may see a range of colors — from pink or slightly dark urine to bright red or cola-colored liquid. You may also see clots, which can come from your prostate, urethra, kidneys or ureters (tubes connecting your kidney to your bladder).
Blood in your urine may show up over a long time, come and go, or happen just once. And while sometimes your doctor might not find a direct cause, it’s important to consult them so they can rule out anything serious. To better understand the possible causes, we spoke to urologist Robert Abouassaly, MD.
Causes of bloody urine
While blood in your urine can happen to anyone, some issues specifically affect men and people assigned male at birth (AMAB) more than women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB). This includes issues with the prostate and higher bladder and kidney cancer rates.
In 2022, the American Cancer Society estimates 50,000 new cases of kidney cancer in men and 28,710 in women. And for bladder cancer, there will be three times as many new cases in men (around 61,700) than in women (19,480).
While kidney and bladder cancers are the most serious of conditions that can cause blood in urine, there are other issues that you should be aware of, too.
Urinary tract issues
The blood could be caused by a urinary tract infection (UTI). A UTI can occur when bacteria from outside of your body get into your urinary system — made up of your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra — causing inflammation and infection.
Bladder stones could also be the culprit. These stones usually form when urine is still left in your bladder after urination and the minerals crystalize, clumping together to form a stone. All of this can result in infections, issues with urination and, yes, bleeding.
While a UTI is treatable with antibiotics, bladder stones require more invasive procedures, including surgery, for removal.
Kidney stones, like bladder stones, can also be a cause of blood in your urine. These form when there isn’t enough urine to flush everything out of your urinary tract. Those leftover substances crystalize, forming stones.
While it’s possible to pass smaller kidney stones through urinating, they can still cause enough pain for your doctor to prescribe pain medication. For other circumstances, several surgical options can help break up the stone or remove it completely.
Kidney disease is another known cause of blood in the urine, and occurs when your kidneys are damaged, affecting their ability to filter your blood. If left untreated, the condition can evolve into chronic kidney disease. This can potentially lead to serious complications and treatment, including dialysis and organ transplants.
Blood in your urine can be a symptom of prostate cancer, one of the most common causes of cancer among men and people AMAB. While symptoms often don’t display in the early stages of prostate cancer, they can develop in later stages.
Less severe is an enlarged prostate, a condition that affects many men and people AMAB as they age. When your prostate becomes enlarged, it can squeeze your urethra, limiting the flow of urine out of your body. While blood is a common symptom of an enlarged prostate, it can develop if the condition is left untreated.
Some of the other causes of blood in your urine include:
- Vigorous exercise.
- Medications like aspirin or blood thinner.
- Inherited conditions like sickle cell disease or certain kinds of hemophilia.
It’s important to note, says Dr. Abouassaly, that while blood in your urine may be a symptom of cancer, it’s most often a sign of a noncancerous condition, like those mentioned above.
Can bloody urine go away on its own?
Yes, blood in your urine can go away if the cause is something like strenuous exercises or certain medications. However, because blood in your urine can be associated with serious issues, you should never let the condition go unaddressed by your healthcare provider.
When to call your doctor
You’ll want to contact your doctor right away if you see blood in your urine, particularly if it’s associated with:
- Painful urination.
- Frequent urination.
- Urgent urination.
- Pain in your abdomen.
It may not be a serious condition, but it’s still a warning sign of something wrong. And, says Dr. Abouassaly, if it’s serious, it needs to be addressed immediately. He adds, “Should it be bladder cancer or another serious condition, any delay in treatment greatly compromises treatment and cure rate.”