Blood in urine: should I be worried?

It can be worrying if you notice blood in your urine but more often than not, it isn’t a result of a serious condition. Blood can come from anywhere in the urinary tract, including the kidneys, bladder or urethra, so it can be a symptom of several conditions. It can also usually be treated easily. 

However, in some cases, blood in your urine can be a sign of a serious health condition, including cancer, which means it’s important to talk to your GP about it as soon as possible. 

What does blood in urine look like?

Blood in your urine can look pink, red or dark brown. You may only notice a small amount but you should still make an appointment with your GP. 

What can cause blood in urine?

There are several common conditions that can cause blood in your urine. These can result in other symptoms as well, so it is important to tell your GP if you’re experiencing any other symptoms that could help with your diagnosis. 

The most common causes of blood in urine are:

Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

UTIs can affect any part of your urinary tract, including the kidneys, bladder and urethra. Women tend to be more at risk of UTIs than men but they can affect anyone. 

As well as blood in the urine, symptoms can include:

  • A burning sensation when you urinate
  • A high temperature
  • Cloudy or smelly urine
  • Pain in your lower back and sides
  • The need to urinate more often

Kidney stones

Kidney stones usually affect those aged 30-50 and can develop in one or both kidneys. The condition can be extremely painful and cause kidney infections and/or damage if it is not treated. 

Other symptoms include:

  • Difficulty getting comfortable or lying still
  • Feeling sick
  • Severe pain in your lower back, groin or sides

Enlarged prostate

This condition only affects men and is fairly common in those aged over 50. Also known as benign prostate enlargement (BPE), this condition can put pressure on the bladder and urethra. 

Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty urinating
  • Difficulty emptying your bladder fully
  • Needing to urinate suddenly and more often

Could blood in urine be something else?

Sometimes, it can look as though you have blood in your urine but this may not be the case. You may find that something external changes the appearance of your urine, making it look red, brown or pink. 

The following can all affect the colour of your urine:

  • Being on your period
  • Eating beetroot — this can make your urine pink
  • Starting a new medication — some medications can make urine appear red or brown

You could also be experiencing anal bleeding rather than the blood being in your urine. Talk to your GP if your stools are black, there is blood on your stools or if you have bloody diarrhoea.

Serious causes of blood in urine

While blood in urine can be a sign of an easy-to-treat condition, it is also a symptom of some types of cancer. 

Both bladder cancer and kidney cancer can cause blood in your urine. These cancers also present with other symptoms, so you should talk to your GP if you are experiencing any of the below.

Symptoms of bladder cancer include:

  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • A recurring UTI
  • Needing to urinate frequently
  • The sudden need to urinate 

Symptoms of kidney cancer include:

  • A high temperature
  • Extreme fatigue
  • High blood pressure
  • Night sweats
  • Persistent pain in your side (just below your ribs) or lower back
  • Swollen neck glands

You may also have unintentional weight loss and a loss of appetite.

Early diagnosis of both of these cancers is essential to a successful outcome, so you can start treatment before the cancer spreads. This is why it’s so important to make an appointment with your GP if you notice blood in your urine.