Q I have recently suffered from a bout of running-induced haematuria. Can you suggest any measures I can take to prevent this from happening again? I run about four times a week, at distances from seven to 13 miles, mainly on roads.
A Haematuria, or blood in the urine, is always a frightening symptom. The most important thing to discover when it occurs in a runner is whether it is due to some factor in the running, or whether it points to a disease or abnormality in the genito-urinary (GU) system.
Firstly, is it blood? Before you laugh, a large portion of beetroot or similar foods can give a good imitation of blood in the urine. Get your GP to test a sample for proof. Secondly, do you have other symptoms? Painful, frequent urination, a desperate urge to go or difficulty starting would all suggest that you need tests to exclude infection, inflammation or blockage – which might indicate more serious diseases.
However, the haematuria that some distance runners experience is a benign condition, which seems to occur as a result of your feet thumping on hard surfaces, and literally mashing the red blood cells. The resultant mess is not adequately filtered by your kidneys, and passes through into the bladder, producing the condition that should technically be described as ‘haemoglobinuria’. However, this diagnosis should only be assumed after other causes have been eliminated.
To cure haemoglobinuria make sure that your shoes have plenty of cushioning, avoid running on hard roads (especially in the heat) and keep hydrated.
—Patrick Milroy, RW Medical Adviser