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Haematuria - Blood in the Urine

Artistic impression of red blood cells

Blood appearing in the urine can be alarming, but most of the time the causes are fairly innocuous. Usually caused by E. coli infecting the bladder, it will often resolve on its own in a few days. See your Doctor and take measures to prevent further infection by maintaining a healthy bladder and urinary tract.

What is Haematuria?

The medical definition of Haematuria is the presence of red blood cells (also known as erythrocytes) in the urine. Haematuria can be benign (non-harmful) or it can be an indication of a number of health conditions affecting the urinary system. Haematuria can range from mild, when only a tiny amount of blood cells are present, visible only under a microscope to more severe where blood is clearly visible in the urine, and the urine appears dark red or brown in colour to the naked eye.

Causes

Haematuria can be idiopathic (with no clear cause) but it can also be symptomatic of a wide variety of underlying conditions affecting the urinary system.

Conditions that can cause haematuria include:

  • Urinary Tract Infection / UTI (a bacterial infection, most often caused by E. coli bacteria)
  • Urolithiasis (bladder or kidney stones)
  • Enlarged Prostate (a common condition in older men)
  • Urethritis (inflammation of the urethra)
  • Polycystic Kidney Disease (a genetic disorder where cysts grow on the kidneys)
  • Trauma (injury to the bladder, kidneys or the tubes of the urinary system)
  • Cancer of the kidney, bladder or prostate
  • Glomerulonephritis / Nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys)

Symptoms

The most obvious symptom is the visible presence of blood in the urine, turing the urine into a reddish, brownish colour. However, it is also worth noting that there are other reasons why your urine may appear pink or reddish in colour. Menstruation, some medications, food such as beetroot, and dyes can all change the colour of urine and can appear similar to haematuria.

In non-visible haematuria, only trace amounts are present and cannot be seen by the naked eye. They can only be detected using some form of urine testing. With both visible and non-visible haematuria, associated symptoms are often the same.

Common associated symptoms include:

  • Pain on urinating
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Urinating more frequently than usual
  • Abdominal pain or lower back pain
  • Cloudy or foul smelling urine

Treatment

If you can clearly see blood in your urine, or if it has turned red or brown in colour, seek medical advice, and request a urine test. In most cases its harmless, but your doctor will be able confirm and eliminate any potentially serious underlying causes. Treatment for haematuria depends on the underlying condition, so it's important to identify the cause first.

The most common cause of haematuria is a UTI or bladder infection. UTIs are not usually serious and often your body is able to fight the infection off within a few days. However, many people suffer from persistent and recurrent UTIs which can be very unpleasant. Bladder infections have the potential to spread to the kidneys, where they can cause more serious problems, so early treatment for UTIs is recommended.

D-Mannose is a common supplement used to maintain bladder health. It binds to the E. coli which are then removed during urination.

Prevention

The best way to prevent haematuria is to maintain good bladder health:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Maintain good genital hygiene but avoid using harsh chemicals like antiseptics, perfumes etc.
  • When you go to the toilet always fully empty your bladder (without straining)

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