Hematuria is blood in the urine. This sometimes can be seen as pinkish urine or visible blood. Most times, it can only be seen with a microscope. Hematuria can be present with or without pain. Having blood in the urine may point to a serious issue, so it’s important to find the cause.
There are two types of hematuria:
1. Gross hematuria: Red blood cells give the urine a pinkish, red or cola coloring.
2. Microscopic hematuria: Red blood cells may not be seen, only under a high powered microscope.
What causes hematuria?
- Urinary infection
- Enlarged Prostate in older men
- Kidney or bladder stones
- Period in women
- Prostate infection
- Kidney disease
- Kidney trauma
- Bladder cancer (mostly in smokers)
- Kidney cancer
- Cancer of the lining of the urinary tract
- Anti-swelling drugs (joint swelling and pain pills)
- Tough workout
When blood is found in the urine, health care providers want to make sure there is not a serious health issue involved such as a tumor in the kidney, urinary tract or bladder. Urological cancers are rarely the cause of blood in the urine but can be life threatening.
How do you diagnose hematuria?
Your doctor will want to review the risks for cancer and learn if there are other causes of the blood in your urine. This often involves an exam and your doctor learning your full health record to see if you have risks for cancer such as smoking, prior radiation, chemotherapy or environmental exposures. The doctor will also be looking for non-cancer causes for the blood in the urine, such as recent trauma, a urinary tract infection (UTI) or other procedures.
If further testing is needed, then your doctor will arrange for these tests. If nothing is found to explain the blood in the urine, then your doctor may assess your level of risk for cancer as low, intermediate or high. These levels of risk are based on known risks for bladder cancer such as:
- smoking history
- number of red blood cells in the urine
- certain types of chemotherapy
- family history of bladder cancer, cancer of the urinary tract lining, or Lynch Syndrome
- workplace exposures to chemicals such as benzene or aromatic amines
- having a catheter in your urinary tract for long amounts of time
All patients with blood seen in their urine (also known as gross hematuria) are at high risk.
What are the tests for hematuria?
The goals of testing are two-fold. The first is to determine if there is an abnormality of the bladder and the second is to evaluate the upper urinary tract (kidneys, ureters which are the tubes that carry the urine to the bladder). A cystoscope is used to look at the bladder. This visual check of the bladder is done with a fiber optic camera. The upper urinary tracts are reviewed with imaging such as an ultrasound or CT scan.
Doctors use guidelines about the risks to decide what kind of testing is needed for each person. A person at low risk may be able to avoid a lot of testing since their risk for cancer is low. A person at high risk needs a more in-depth testing.
Since patients at low risk rarely have cancer, doctors will likely discuss the benefits and drawbacks of more testing. A common option is to repeat a urine test within 6 months. If that test shows blood in the urine, then more testing is performed. If the repeat test does not show blood, then the patient is simply watched for symptoms. If the patient prefers testing right away, then a cystoscopy and renal ultrasound may be performed.
Patients who are told they have an intermediate risk will be recommended to have a cystoscopy procedure to look at the bladder and a renal ultrasound to look at the kidneys.
Those who are at high risk often have a have test with a cystoscope to look at the bladder and a computed tomography (CT scan) of the abdomen and pelvis to look at the lining of the urinary tract. The main difference between a CT scan and ultrasound is that the CT scan can find small abnormalities in the kidney and ureters that may be missed by ultrasound.
How do you treat hematuria?
Most patients with blood in the urine do not have major problems. In fact, for many, a cause is not known. In those patients with a more serious condition, finding this early can be lifesaving. It is of great value to get tested and not ignore these findings especially if blood is seen in your urine.