Bright Red (Bloody) Urine Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Understand your bright red (bloody) urine symptoms, including 10 causes and common questions.

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Contents

  1. Symptoms
  2. Causes
  3. 10 Possible Bright Red (Bloody) Urine Conditions
  4. Treatments and Relief
  5. FAQs
  6. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  7. Statistics
  8. Related Articles
  9. References

Bright Red (Bloody) Urine Symptoms

The body eliminates excess water and waste through urine. Normal urine can take on a broad spectrum of hues. Urine is typically yellow in color. Depending on the amount of water in the urine, this yellow color can range from pale (diluted) to deep gold or amber (concentrated).

Even with this broad range of normal colors, bright red or bloody urine (also known as hematuria) is a sign of an underlying systemic problem. Hematuria in itself is the most common cause of red-colored urine [1].

Common characteristics of bright red (bloody) urine

Macrohematuria is the term for visible blood in the urine. However, there are conditions of bloody urine where the blood can only be detected by microscopic examination (microhematuria) [2]. In most cases, macrohematuria is the triggering symptom that causes worry; however, microhematuria can also have symptoms similar to macrohematuria.

Common accompanying symptoms of bright red (bloody) urine

Symptoms associated with both macrohematuria and microhematuria may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Back pain
  • Increased urinary urgency: This is an increased desire to urinate.
  • Increased urinary frequency: This is increased urination.
  • Dysuria: This is painful urination.

Usually the underlying problem is not life-threatening; however, you should always follow-up with your healthcare provider if you notice any of the symptoms above.

Bright Red (Bloody) Urine Causes

To understand what may be causing your bright red urine, let's first discuss the process of the kidneys. The kidney first makes and filters the urine. The urine passes from the kidneys into the bladder through two tubes called the ureters. The urine then exits the bladder through another tube called the urethra. Changes in urine color can often signal a problem with the kidney and its components; however, there are many non-kidney associated causes of hematuria as well.

Inflammatory

Infection is the primary inflammatory cause of bright red or bloody urine. A variety of pathogens can infect any of the components of the urinary system (kidney, bladder, etc.) causing a urinary tract infection (UTI). Many types of outside bacteria and fungi can enter the body easily via the urinary tract, including sexually transmitted bacteria such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. These infections can inflame and injure the kidney to the point that function is impaired.

Obstructive

Obstructive causes of bright red or bloody urine include the following.

  • Kidney stones: The kidney is prone to developing stones of hardened material that can irritate not only the kidney but also the entire urinary tract, leading to bloody urine in addition to many associated symptoms such as dysuria and back pain.
  • Cancer: Although comparatively uncommon, cancers of the bladder, kidney or prostate can also cause bloody urine [3]. This symptom is especially worrisome in older adult patients [4].

Medical Conditions

Other medical conditions can lead to bright red or bloody urine.

  • Blood disorders: Conditions that cause breakdown and destruction of blood cells can turn urine dark brown or bloody. Any blood disorder that involves the breakdown of hemoglobin — a major component of the blood — will be excreted by the kidneys, turning the urine dark brown or bloody.
  • Systemic disease: Diseases that affect other organs such as the liver can seriously affect the processes that filter and excrete urine. Such conditions can include cancer, hepatitis, and cirrhosis.

Environmental

Environmental causes of bright red or bloody urine include the following.

  • Trauma: Blunt or penetrating injury to the kidneys, whether via a fall or motor vehicle accident, can cause bruising and sometimes laceration of the kidney. This type of intense injury can result in bright red, bloody urine.
  • Drugs: There are many drugs including antibiotics, NSAIDs, and diuretics that can cause injury and irritation to the kidneys and result in bloody urine. Furthermore, overuse of drugs that thin the blood (anticoagulants) can also result in hematuria.
  • Exercise: Overly strenuous exercise can cause the serious breakdown and damage of muscle cells. The kidneys filter and excrete toxic products broken down by the muscles and released into the bloodstream. These breakdown products turn the urine dark brown or red and injure the kidneys.

10 Possible Bright Red (Bloody) Urine Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced bright red (bloody) urine. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Urinary tract infection

A urinary tract infection is an infection of the urinary tract, which includes the kidneys, bladder, and urethra. Urinary tract infections are usually caused by infections by fecal bacteria.

Symptoms of urinary tract infections include pain with urination (dysuria), ...

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Urethritis

Urethritis is an infection of the urethra, which drains urine out of the body from the bladder. The urethra may be involved alone or with other structures in an overall urinary tract infection.

Urethritis is not a sexually transmitted disease (STD) in itself, but the same bacteria and viruses that cause STDs can also infect the urethra. Another common cause is the E.coli bacteria, found in feces.

Most susceptible are sexually active women, but anything that allows bacteria (especially E. coli) to travel into the urinary tract can cause an infection.

The most common symptoms are burning on urination and a cloudy discharge.

Diagnosis is made through urine test and a swab taken from the urethra. A urethritis patient should be tested for sexually transmitted diseases as well.

Treatment involves antibiotics, if the urethritis is caused by bacteria. Taking cranberry supplements can also be helpful, as long as the patient is not also taking the blood thinner called warfarin.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: painful urination, penis pain, fluid leaking, pink/blood-tinged urine, cloudy urine

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Kidney stone

A kidney stone is a stone made up of various possible materials that forms in the kidneys. Factors that increase the risk of forming kidney stones include high levels of calcium, uric acid, and oxalate in the urine, low levels of citrate in the urine, abnormal urine pH, low urine volume, certain urin...

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Kidney infection (pyelonephritis)

A kidney infection, or pyelonephritis, is actually a type of urinary tract infection (UTI) that begins in the urethra or bladder and spreads to the kidneys.

The infection is caused by bacteria that either travel into the urethra or spread from an infection elsewhere in the body.

Women, especially pregnant women, are most susceptible. Anyone who has had a urinary tract blockage, or uses a catheter, or has a weakened immune system is also at risk for a kidney infection.

Symptoms include fever; chills; back and abdominal pain; and frequent, painful urination. If there is also nausea and vomiting and discolored, foul-smelling urine, take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Left untreated, pyelonephritis can cause permanent damage to the kidneys. Bacteria can also enter the bloodstream and cause a life-threatening infection elsewhere in the body.

Diagnosis is made through urine test, blood test, and sometimes imaging such as ultrasound, CT scan, or x-ray.

Treatment includes antibiotics and sometimes hospitalization.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, pelvis pain, back pain, vomiting

Symptoms that never occur with kidney infection (pyelonephritis): mid back pain from an injury

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Benign prostatic hypertrophy (bph)

The prostate is a gland in men that helps produce semen, the fluid that contains sperm. Over many years, the cells of this gland have a tendency to become enlarged (or hypertrophy). Fortunately, this enlargement is not itself dangerous. ...

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Bright Red (Bloody) Urine Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your bright red (bloody) urine

Acute prostatitis

Acute prostatitis is a sudden-onset bacterial infection of the prostate gland in men.

Bacteria can spread to the prostate through a urinary tract infection, or through a sexually transmitted disease such as gonorrhea or chlamydia. Infection can also start after a medical procedure such as a urinary catheter insertion.

Most susceptible are younger or middle-aged men with a urinary tract infection or STD (sexually transmitted disease;) a pelvic injury from trauma or from bicycling or other sport; an enlarged prostate; or a recent prostate biopsy.

Symptoms include pain and difficulty when trying to urinate; pain on ejaculation; pelvic and abdominal pain; fever; chills; and nausea and vomiting.

These symptoms should be evaluated by a medical provider, because untreated prostatitis can lead to bacteremia of the blood ("blood poisoning,") prostatic abscess, and infertility.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, urinalysis, blood tests, and a physical examination which usually involves a digital rectal examination. Prostatitis does not cause prostate cancer.

Treatment is done with antibiotics, usually as an outpatient.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: penis pain, fever, urinary changes, painful urination, chills

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Bladder cancer

The bladder is a hollow organ with a muscular wall that stores urine until it is passed from the body. Bladder cancer refers to the out of control growth of cells within the lining of the urinary bladder. It is the sixth most common cancer among adults in the U.S.

Initial symptoms include bloo...

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Prostate neoplasm

The prostate gland sits under the bladder, near the rectum (end of the large intestine), and it makes the fluid that carries sperm. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States. It is different from other cancers because small areas of cancer within the prostate are actually very common, especially in older men.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: frequent urination, waking up regularly to pee at night, painful urination, constant but weak urination stream, feeling of not getting everything out when urinating

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Rhabdomyolysis

Rhabdomyolysis is a syndrome most commonly resulting from muscle injury following extreme exertion such as endurance exercise or weight lifting or following a severe accident. Sometimes rhabdomyolysis may result from medications - most commonly medications to treat elevated cholesterol such as statins. Severity can range from mild to life threatening kidney disease from muscle enzymes entering the circulation.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, nausea, muscle aches, being severely ill, change in urine color

Urgency: Emergency medical service

Interstitial nephritis

Interstitial nephritis is a disorder of the kidneys that results when the spaces between the kidney tubules become swollen and inflamed. These spaces are also known as the interstitium. The tubules are the structures of the kidney responsible for filtering fluid.

The ch...

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Bright Red (Bloody) Urine Treatments and Relief

At-home treatments

If you notice blood in the urine or have any of the associated symptoms, you should not try to treat your symptoms on your own. Follow-up with your healthcare provider first and get suggestions on how to alleviate your symptoms at home.

When to see a doctor

Your doctor will perform the following diagnostic tests in order to make the proper diagnosis. Treatment will be diagnosis-dependent and your doctor will discuss all of the appropriate options.

  • Urinalysis: Your doctor will take a urine sample in order to look for red blood cells, levels of protein, and excreted minerals and pigments in the urine that may indicate underlying kidney or urinary tract problems. Your doctor may also check for bacteria in your urine that may be causing infection.
  • Blood tests: Certain blood tests can measure the level of waste products that build up in your bloodstream when your kidneys are damaged and not filtering properly. Your doctor may also check for elevated levels of liver enzymes that indicate liver damage.

Depending on the findings, your doctor may prescribe or suggest the following treatment options:

  • Antibiotics: If your symptoms are due to bacterial infection, your healthcare provider will prescribe antibiotic pills.
  • Kidney stone removal: Most often, kidney stones pass without treatment. However, if your kidney stone persists, there are certain medications that can relax the ureter and make it easier for the stone to pass. If these treatment options do not work, surgery may be necessary [5].
  • Discontinue the offending drug: If a specific drug is causing your symptoms, your physician will discontinue the drug and discuss alternative options.

Prevention

While it is not entirely possible to prevent all causes of bright red or bloody urine, the following habits can help prevent the formation of kidney stones [6].

  • Drinking plenty of water: Drinking extra water dilutes the substances in the urine that lead to stones.
  • Reducing sodium intake: A high-sodium diet can trigger kidney stones because it increases the amount of calcium in your urine. Current guidelines suggest limiting total daily sodium intake to 2,300 mg. If you are experiencing kidney stones, try to reduce your daily intake to 1,500 mg.
  • Avoiding foods that can form stones: Beets, chocolate, spinach, rhubarb, tea, and most nuts are rich in oxalate, which can contribute to kidney stones. If you suffer from stones, your doctor may advise you to avoid these foods or to consume them in smaller amounts.

When it is an emergency

Go straight to the hospital if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Your painful urination persists
  • You have drainage or discharge from your penis or vagina
  • Your urine is foul-smelling or cloudy in addition to being bloody
  • You have a fever
  • You have back pain or pain in your side (flank pain)
  • You pass a kidney or bladder (urinary tract) stone

FAQs About Bright Red (Bloody) Urine

What is a urinary tract infection?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of the urinary system (kidneys, ureters, bladder or urethra). Most urinary tract infections involve the bladder or urethra (the components of the lower urinary tract).

Can both men and women get urinary tract infections?

Both women and men can develop UTIs; however, women are at a greater risk of developing UTIs than men given that their reproductive system is more open to infectious pathogens.

What is a kidney stone?

A kidney stone is a solid, pebble-like piece of material that can form in one or both of your kidneys when high levels of certain minerals (calcium, oxalate or uric acid) build up in the urine [7].

How do I know if I have microhematuria?

Since the blood is microscopic, you will not see bright red blood; however, you may experience symptoms including fatigue, back pain, increased urinary urgency (desire to urinate), increased urinary frequency (increased urination), and dysuria (painful urination).

How do I prevent kidney stones?

Kidney stones form due to the buildup of minerals in the urine. The main ways to prevent kidney stone formation include drinking plenty of water to dilute substances in the urine that lead to stones, reducing your sodium intake to no more than 2,300 mg per day or less as advised by your doctor, and, if need be, avoiding foods that are high in oxalate such as beets, chocolate, spinach, rhubarb, tea, and most nuts.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Bright Red (Bloody) Urine

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Do you feel pain when you urinate?
  • Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Are you sexually active?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Please take a quiz to find out what might be causing your bright red (bloody) urine. These questions are also covered.

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Bright Red (Bloody) Urine Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced bright red (bloody) urine have also experienced:

  • 12% Painful Urination
  • 6% Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache)
  • 5% Pink/Blood-Tinged Urine

People who have experienced bright red (bloody) urine were most often matched with:

  • 50% Kidney Stone
  • 33% Urethritis
  • 16% Urinary Tract Infection

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant (a.k.a. the quiz).

Bright Red (Bloody) Urine Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your bright red (bloody) urine

References

  1. Wüthrich RP, Serra A. [The red urine]. Ther Umsch. 2006;63(9):595-600. PubMed Link
  2. McDonald MM, Swagerty D, Wetzel L. Assessment of Microscopic Hematuria in Adults. Am Fam Physician. 2006 May 15;73(10):1748-1754. AAFP Link
  3. Hicks D, Li CY. Management of macroscopic haematuria in the emergency department. Emerg Med J. 2007;24(6):385-90. NCBI Link
  4. Groninger H, Phillips JM. Gross Hematuria: Assessment and Management at the End of Life. J Hosp Palliat Nurs. 2012;14(3):184-188. NCBI Link
  5. How are kidney stones treated? Urology Care Foundation. Urology Health Link
  6. Pendick, D. 5 steps for preventing kidney stones. Harvard Health Blog. Harvard Health Blog Link
  7. Kidney Stones. National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. NIDDK Link