Medically termed as hematuria, red blood cells (RBCs) in the urine is considered to be normal if they are less in number. Generally about 2.5 million red blood cells are excreted in the urine everyday as part of the body's normal process to get rid of old and inefficient cells. There are mainly two types of hematuria: microscopic and macroscopic. Microscopic haematuria is a condition in which normal amount of red blood cells are present in the urine, which are not visible to naked eye and can be examined only under a microscope. In macroscopic or gross haematuria, the number of cells are sufficient enough to change the urine color from yellow to pink or red.
Although it is not a life-threatening health condition, there are various causes, which may result in excess amount of RBCs in the urine.
- Urinary Tract Infections: Urinary tract infection (UTI) is the most common cause for red blood cells in the urine. It occurs due to bacterial invasion in the urinary tract that may cause tissue damage. This may eventually spread up to the urethra, bladder, and in some cases to the kidneys also.
- Kidney Stones: Over the course of time, the kidneys and other parts of the urinary tract can get blocked by stones, tumors or inflammation, that lead to a narrowing of the opening. Kidney stones are tiny deposits of chemicals, made of calcium, phosphate and oxalate. They can cause severe pain and discomfort while urinating and can even lead to blood in the urine.
- Medications: Consumption of prescribed medications like quinine, rifampin, warfarin, aspirin, phenytoin, etc. may help in relieving symptoms of an existing illness but can lead to harmful side effects like red blood cells present in the urine.
- Diseases: There are various diseases that can contribute to blood in urine like diabetes. It is a health ailment, that affects the secretion of insulin hormone from the pancreas, and can also inflame the capillaries in the kidneys responsible for filtering the blood. Similarly, sickle cell anemia is a genetic blood disease that can also lead to RBCs in the urine. It occurs due to the presence of abnormal form of hemoglobin or shortage of red blood cells in the body.
- Enlarged Prostate: Enlarged prostate or benign prostatic hypertrophy, which is commonly seen in older men can be another cause for blood in urine. It is a non-cancerous condition of the prostate gland, where there are abnormal cell divisions that lead to gradual enlargement of the prostate gland.
- Cancer: Cancer can also be a contributing factor. Prostate, bladder and kidney cancer are most commonly found in the people aged over 50. Prostate cancer progresses at a very slow rate but it is very necessary to get it diagnosed in the initial stage to avoid complications.
- Other factors: Kidney infections, strenuous exercise, accident or trauma may result in bruised kidneys or bladder damage. Hence this may lead to high amount of red blood cells in the urine. Many a time color change in urine is mistaken for hematuria. Reasons behind this color change can be some food items like beets, berries and food coloring agents. Menstrual bleeding is also sometimes mistaken for hematuria.
Other Associated Symptoms
Here are some other symptoms besides blood in urine that a hematuria patient may suffer.
- Small blood clots in the urine
- Pain in the flank (side of the body between the ribs and the hips) or groin
- Burning sensation or pain while urinating
- Nausea or vomiting
- Decreased appetite
- Loss of weight
Treatment for hematuria primarily depends on its underlying cause. Do not try to treat this condition at home. As soon as you observe blood in urine, consult a doctor immediately. Urinalysis, blood tests, and ultrasound scan of the kidneys or cystoscopy, CT scan of kidney, bladder and ureters, are some of the diagnostic tests that are conducted to detect the actual cause behind the problem. If the blood in urine is due to kidney stones, the patient should drink enough fluids and can take some pain relief medications. For urinary tract infection or kidney infection, the patient may be prescribed with antibiotics.
Factors that Make You Susceptible to Hematuria
Following are some of the factors when may put you at a risk to hematuria.
- Women are more susceptible to urinary tract infections than men. More than half of the population of women suffer from urinary tract infection.
- Family history of hematuria may increase the risk of getting it.
- People aged over 50 are more likely to get hematuria.
- People who already had any urinary tract infections or any of the diseases given in the causes may get hematuria again.
Sometimes, no definite cause is diagnosed. Such cases where there is no sign of serious illness, it is advisable for the patient to have an occasional monitoring of the urine, blood tests and blood pressure, at least once in six months. This is to determine the rare cases where the hematuria can be an early sign of a health ailment, that may develop later in life. Keep yourself hydrated. Drink at least eight glass of water daily and avoid smoking. These preventive measures will help you to avoid hematuria.