Blood in one’s urine, otherwise known as hematuria, may be alarming. But, fortunately, blood in urine isn’t always an indication of a serious issue. Blood that is visible in urine is called gross hematuria, which indicates the presence of red blood cells in the urine. In such cases, the urine may have a pink or red tint.
Hematuria can be distinguished from urinary blood that is visible only under a microscope. This is known as microscopic hematuria.
Blood in urine can be caused by strenuous excerise, or taking certain medications (e.g., asprin). Women may, at times, believe that blood is in the urine when it is actually coming from the vagina (e.g., during menstruation). In addition, sometimes, blood from a bowel movement may be mistaken for blood in urine. Consuming beets or certain other foods can make it appear that there is blood in the urine when there is not.
To find the cause of hematuria, or to rule out certain causes, the doctor may order a number of tests, such as urinalysis, blood tests, and kidney imaging studies. Urinalysis, which is the examination of urine, allows the doctor to find microscopic red blood cells or, perhaps, white blood cells.
White blood cells can signal either a urinary tract infection or casts, which are groups of cells molded together in the shape of the kidneys' tiny filtering tubes. Casts often signal kidney disease, as does excessive protein in the urine.
The doctor may also order blood tests, which can reveal kidney disease should the blood contains high levels of wastes that the kidneys generally remove. In addition, kidney-imaging studies such as ultrasounds and computerized tomography (CT) scan provide a helpful glimpse of the kidney and/or urinary tract. These images can reveal a tumor, a kidney or bladder stone, an enlarged prostate, or some other blockage to the flow of urine.
Blood in the urine should never be ignored. Contact your doctor right away if blood in urine is accompanied by fever, nausea, vomiting, shaking/chills, or pain in your abdomen, side, or back.