What does it mean when you’re peeing blood?
If you notice you’re peeing blood, the blood may look bright red, pink, brown, rose-coloured or tea-coloured. You may see traces of blood in your pee (urine) after wiping – or you may even see blood clots. Sometimes, your pee may look normal but traces of blood may be picked up by your doctor when you have a pee test.
Blood in your urine is medically known as haematuria.
Peeing blood can be alarming, but usually it isn’t caused by something serious. Common causes include urinary tract infections (UTIs) that can be managed at home and with the help of a doctor and antibiotics if needed.
But it’s always best to see a doctor if you see blood in your pee so that they can rule out more worrying causes. Sometimes, blood in your urine may be the sign of something serious like an enlarged prostate or even cancer. This is why it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible, as the earlier a condition like cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat.
What causes blood in your urine?
If you have blood in your pee, it’s often due to an infection somewhere in your urinary tract, but it can also happen without any infection present.
Your urinary tract is made up of the organs that produce, store and remove pee from your body. Your pee is made in your kidneys and passes through tubes called ureters into your bladder, where it’s stored. It then goes through your urethra, the tube that carries pee from your bladder out of your body. A problem anywhere along your urinary tract can cause blood in your pee.
If you have a penis, your urethra runs through your prostate (a small gland that helps create semen) – and if you have a prostate problem, it can sometimes also cause blood in your urine.
There are 2 main types of haematuria:
- macroscopic or gross haematuria – this is visible blood in your urine that you can easily see
- microscopic haematuria – this is when your pee looks normal in colour, but blood is found in it when you have a urine test known as a dipstick, or a laboratory urine test using a microscope
The colour of your urine doesn’t necessarily tell you how much blood you’ve lost, as even a tiny amount of blood (1ml) can turn your pee a different colour. And sometimes, it isn’t blood that changes the colour of your pee. Eating beetroot or taking certain medications may make your pee red or brown in colour too.
Also, if you see blood when you wipe after peeing, it may not be from your urine but from somewhere else like your bottom (rectum) or your vagina.
Here are some of the common causes of blood in your urine.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) often cause blood in your urine – both visible blood and blood that you won’t be able to see. They’re a common cause of blood in the urine for both people with a vagina and a penis.
UTIs can happen anywhere from your bladder to your kidneys. It’s medically known as cystitis when it’s in your bladder, urethritis when it’s in your urethra and pyelonephritis when it’s a kidney infection.
UTIs are usually caused by bacteria – often from bacteria in your poo accidentally entering your urinary tract through your pee hole into your urethra. People with a vagina have a shorter urethra, so it’s more common for bacteria to get into their bodies and cause an infection.
Other than blood in your pee, symptoms of a UTI may include:
- pain or a burning feeling when you pee (called dysuria)
- cloudy-looking pee
- needing to pee more often or at night
- feeling the urge to pee suddenly or more urgently
- lower tummy pain
- a high or low temperature
- problems controlling your pee (incontinence) – particularly if you’re elderly or frail
- feeling confused or anxious – this is also more common if you’re older, frail or have a urinary catheter (a tube that’s medically inserted into your bladder to drain your pee)
If a UTI goes beyond your bladder, it can be more serious and cause symptoms like:
- a fever
- feeling unwell with chills or shaking (rigors) and feeling very tired
- pain on one side of your back (your flank or groin) – this may also be sore to the touch
You’re more likely to get a UTI if you:
- are pregnant
- have kidney stones or other problems that block your urinary tract tubes
- have a medical condition that makes it difficult to pee properly, like an enlarged prostate or constipation
- have a urinary catheter
- don’t drink enough water
- have a weakened immune system
- have diabetes
- don’t keep your genital area clean and dry
- have a problem with the structure of your urinary tract
- have sex
- use spermicides when having sex
Kidney stones are found in your kidneys or in the tubes that connect your kidneys to your bladder (ureters). They’re caused by waste products from your blood collecting into crystals. They build up over time and become hard lumps. These stones can be very painful and can sometimes cause a blockage that stops you peeing, stops your kidneys working properly or causes an infection.
You’re more likely to get a kidney stone if you:
- don’t drink enough fluids
- take certain medications
- have a medical condition that raises levels of certain substances in your blood –
like gout, which raises levels of uric acid
- have diabetes
If the kidney stone is small, you may pass it in your pee without even noticing it. But if it’s bigger, it may cause symptoms like blood in your pee and:
- pain in the side of your tummy – this can be very serious tummy pain and can come and go in waves
- feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting)
An enlarged prostate
Benign prostate enlargement (BPE) is when your prostate grows bigger than normal. It’s also medically known as benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH).
When your prostate enlarges, it can squash your urethra and make it difficult to pee. Sometimes your prostate can be so big that it blocks off your urethra and stops you from peeing at all – this is called urinary retention. This can be very painful and can cause infections and kidney damage if it’s not treated very quickly, which is why you must go to an emergency department if you can’t pee.
If you have BPE, you usually won’t have blood in your urine, but sometimes, you may develop this symptom. Other more common symptoms of BPE include:
- finding it difficult to start peeing
- needing to pee more often, including at night
- feeling your bladder hasn’t emptied fully
- a sudden need to pee
BPE is very common if you’re over 50 – but you won’t always get symptoms. Studies have also shown that being obese or having diabetes may increase your risk of BPE.
Having an enlarged prostate doesn’t increase your risk of prostate cancer.
Sometimes, blood in your urine may be a sign of cancer in your bladder, kidneys or prostate. Although blood in your urine is unlikely to be a sign of cancer, it’s important to see a doctor to find out the cause.
Sometimes, if you have one of these cancers, you may not have any symptoms and a doctor may only find traces of blood in your pee when you do a urine test. Other times, you may see blood in your pee and have symptoms like:
- losing weight without meaning to
- a pain in your lower back or side, just below your ribs
- a lump or swelling in your side
- needing to pee more often
- a sudden urge to pee
- a burning feeling when you pee
- straining while you pee
- feeling that your bladder hasn’t emptied properly
These symptoms shouldn’t be ignored, but they don’t always mean you have cancer.
The exact cause of these cancers isn’t fully known, but there are things that can put you at a higher risk of getting these cancers, like smoking, having a close relative with the cancer or being obese. Read more about the causes of bladder cancer, prostate cancer and kidney cancer.
Less common causes of blood in your urine
Less common causes of blood in your pee include:
- kidney diseases – conditions that affect your kidneys or the blood vessels in your kidneys can cause blood to leak into your pee, like glomerulonephritis, lupus or polycystic kidney disease
- vigorous exercise (any exercise that makes you breath hard and fast) or an injury to your kidneys
- medications such as penicillin, aspirin, blood thinners or a cancer medicine called cyclophosphamide
When to see a doctor about blood in your urine
The first time you see blood in your pee, you should see a doctor as soon as you can.
But you should call an ambulance or go straight to an emergency department if you have blood in your urine and you:
- are peeing a lot of blood
- haven’t peed all day
- are confused, drowsy or have trouble speaking
- you feel short of breath or have a high heart rate
- suddenly can’t pee at all, even if you feel you need to
- have serious lower tummy pain
- have a swelling in your lower tummy
- have injured your tummy
See a doctor urgently (within 24 hours) if you have blood in your urine and you:
- have symptoms of a UTI and they’re not getting better after 2 days, including burning pain when you pee, or needing to pee often or urgently
- have symptoms of a UTI and have a penis, are older or frail, are a child, or your symptoms have come back after you’ve had treatment
- have a fever (a temperature of 38C or higher)
- have pain just under your ribs at the back
- feel shivery or are shaking
- feel unwell
- have high blood pressure (hypertension)
- are sweating at night
- have recently had surgery
- are pregnant
You should see a doctor as soon as possible if you have blood in your urine and:
- you don’t have any other symptoms
- it’s not going away
- you’re losing weight without meaning to
- you’re not sure if it’s blood
- you’ve lost your appetite (you don’t feel hungry)
- you’ve already been treated for an infection but the blood hasn’t gone away
- you keep getting infections
- you’re having problems peeing, including peeing a lot at night, peeing more often, needing to pee urgently or other difficulties with peeing
What is the treatment for blood in your urine?
The treatment you need will depend on what’s causing you to pee blood.
For self-care for a UTI, try:
- simple painkillers – speak to a doctor or pharmacist for advice on how to get and use these safely
- drinking lots of water, so that you pee pale urine regularly
Sometimes, your symptoms will go away after home treatment, but often, you’ll need to see a doctor for a course of antibiotics. If your infection isn’t too serious, you’ll only need antibiotics for 3 days. Read more about the treatment for cystitis.
If you have a kidney infection, you’ll need antibiotics immediately to stop the infection damaging your kidneys or spreading into your bloodstream. If the infection is serious or you have a long-term health problem, you may need a longer course of antibiotics or you may need to go to hospital to have antibiotics inserted into your vein through a drip. Read more about the treatment for a kidney infection.
If you have a UTI that keeps coming back (a recurrent UTI), a doctor may suggest:
- taking antibiotics regularly to prevent them
- using a vaginal cream containing the hormone oestrogen if you’ve been through the menopause
- taking a natural sugar called D-mannose – this is sometimes recommended, but more research is needed to confirm how well it works. If you’re pregnant, don’t use it
Read more about how to prevent UTIs.
You must see a doctor if you have any symptoms of kidney stones.
Most kidney stones are small enough to pass out of your body in your pee, so you can usually manage them at home by drinking plenty of fluids and taking simple painkillers, but first get advice from your doctor or pharmacist on how to safely get and use these medicines.
But if you’re in a lot of pain, have a fever or can’t eat or drink, see a doctor immediately as you may need to go to hospital. Treatment may include:
- strong painkillers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- medication to help you pass the stone
- antibiotics for an infection if you have one
- a procedure to break up or remove the stones if they’re too big to pass
You can help prevent kidney stones by drinking enough water and treating any underlying medical problems. Read more about how to prevent kidney stones.
An enlarged prostate
If you have symptoms of an enlarged prostate, see a doctor.
To treat the symptoms of an enlarged prostate, try these self-care measures:
- don’t drink too much alcohol, caffeine or fizzy drinks
- don’t use artificial sweeteners
- exercise regularly
- drink less fluids at night so you won’t have to get up at night to pee
A doctor may recommend:
- medication to relax your bladder
- medication to reduce the size of your prostate
- surgery to reduce the size of your prostate
If you have a complication like urinary retention, you may need to have a catheter inserted into your bladder to help drain your urine.
Kidney, bladder and prostate cancer can be treated more easily if they’re diagnosed early, so see a doctor if you think you have symptoms of any of these cancers. Treatment will depend on how far the cancer has spread.
What can you expect after finding blood in your urine?
How long it takes for the blood in your urine to go away depends on the underlying cause.
Some causes like an infection are likely to get better quickly once you’ve had antibiotics. You’ll usually feel better after having a UTI within 2 days of starting your antibiotics, but a kidney infection may take around 2 weeks to go away.
How quickly kidney stones pass will depend on how big they are – if they’re too big, you may need treatment like a surgical procedure to help break up or remove them. But once they’re gone, the blood in your urine should go. If you’ve had a kidney stone once, you’re more likely to get one again.
If you have an enlarged prostate, it may get worse over time, but medication or surgery can help with your symptoms and you can learn to manage them with things like controlling what you drink and when.
Sometimes, the cause of blood in your urine may be life-threatening, like kidney, bladder or prostate cancer, but these can be treated if they’re picked up early, so see a doctor if you’re getting any symptoms of these cancers.
Your health questions answered
What does it mean if you have blood in your urine when pregnant?
If you’re pregnant and see blood in your urine, it could mean you have an infection like a UTI. UTIs are more common in pregnancy and usually need to be treated, so see your doctor as soon as possible. But the cause could also be unrelated to you being pregnant. The blood could also be coming from your vagina – it can be hard to tell the difference. If you think it’s coming from your vagina, see a doctor as soon as possible, so they can try to find out why you’re bleeding.
- peeing blood can be worrying, but usually it isn’t caused by something serious
- a common cause of blood in your urine is a urinary tract infection (UTI)
- sometimes, blood in your urine may be the sign of something life-threatening like kidney, bladder or prostate cancer
- sometimes, your UTI may go away after home treatment, but often, you’ll need to see a doctor for a course of antibiotics
- the first time you see blood in your pee, see a doctor as soon as you can