Especially during a time when many people are navigating if and when it’s essential to visit a health care professional, it’s wise to know the signs or symptoms of some severe health concerns. When it comes to your urological health, there are a few “red flags” that should not be ignored and require immediate medical attention.
Blood in the urine. Urine that’s red or tinged with blood is never a symptom to ignore. It’s also essential to understand that the urine doesn’t need to appear bright red for blood to be present in it. Sometimes, it may have a pink or brown appearance, or it may be tinged with blood streaks or droplets. When this is the case, an urgent call to your health care provider is necessary. Blood in the urine can be a sign of easy-to-treat conditions, including urinary tract infections. However, even if a person with blood in their urine is diagnosed with a UTI, there may be other underlying problems that are causing the blood to be present. Blood in the urine is also a symptom of kidney infection, kidney stones and bladder and kidney cancers, so it’s important to have it evaluated immediately.
Urinary urgency. The term urinary urgency describes a strong and consistent urge to urinate — in some cases, with little to no urine expelled from the urethra. Again, this is a general symptom that can indicate a UTI, an issue with the prostate gland in men, an overactive bladder in men or women or certain types of cancer, including bladder cancer. Even if not accompanied by other symptoms, the frequent need to urinate without being able to expel urine from the bladder must be evaluated and treated by a qualified physician. Urinary urgency can also be a problem even if normal to high volumes of urine are being produced. In these cases, the cause could be uncontrolled diabetes, excess fluid intake, excess diuretic use or a loss of the kidney’s ability to concentrate urine.
Urinary retention. Beyond the feeling of needing to urinate and having a weak stream of urine, the sudden inability to urinate is a medical emergency. This problem usually occurs in men over age 50, who may be dealing with the prostate gland’s enlargement. Women with enlarged uterus, pelvic mass or pelvic prolapse may also experience urinary retention. Other causes in men and women can include a tumor or another obstruction in the urinary tract, as well as bladder stones. Left unchecked, urinary retention can lead to chronic UTIs, damage to the bladder and even chronic kidney disease. In many cases, simple urine or blood tests can help health care providers get to the bottom of what’s causing the problem.
Pain during urination. Whether it’s a burning or stinging sensation, or more of a dull ache in the urethra, pain while urinating is not normal and signifies that something within the urinary tract is wrong. Though UTIs are a common cause of painful urination, there are plenty of others, including prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland) in men, a sexually transmitted infection such as gonorrhea and interstitial cystitis (inflammation of the lining of the bladder), and kidney stones. Each of these conditions is cause for immediate medical attention.
I know the thought of safely navigating the health care system right now may seem daunting to many people. But your health and well-being should always be your top priority. The vast majority of the nation’s urgent care and ER providers have systems and protocols to segregate patients suspected of having Covid-19 from others who have a different type of medical emergency.
As a physician, I have put practices into place in my own office to ensure the health of my staff and patients, and I know many colleagues have done the same. We don’t want you to be scared to see your doctor. And we especially don’t want you to avoid the medical care you might need in fear of contracting COVID-19. If you’re at all in doubt or need assurance, call ahead. Urgent care and emergency room personnel can walk you through their protocols to help put you at ease. Depending on your symptoms, you may be able to have your concerns addressed through a virtual visit from the comfort of your own home.
[Read: Types of Bladder Cancer]
Either way, don’t ignore your urinary health symptoms. Depending on the condition that’s causing them, they can be signs of life-threatening problems.
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