7 Bladder Symptoms Never to Ignore

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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  • Public toilets with men and women signs

    Pain or burning when you pee (urinate) can signal a urinary tract infection (UTI), but sometimes those symptoms point to a more serious cause: bladder cancer. Whenever you experience bladder symptoms that last more than a few days—like unusual sensations with urination, discolored urine, or trouble urinating—you should see a medical professional for a diagnosis. Chances are your bladder symptoms aren’t serious, but getting a diagnosis and proper treatment can alleviate the discomfort of common ailments like a bladder infection. Learn which bladder symptoms you should never ignore.

  • 1
    Blood in your urine
    View from outside bathroom of man in flannel pants urinating in toilet

    If you see bright red blood or blood clots in your urine—or if your urine looks “rusty”—call your healthcare provider immediately. Your urine should never contain visible blood or take on a reddish color. This could be a sign of a serious urinary tract infection, but then again it could be a symptom of bladder cancer. In this case, it’s best to let a healthcare professional determine why there’s blood in your urine so it can be treated appropriately.

  • 2
    Pain while urinating
    Woman sitting on toilet with roll of toilet paper in her lap

    It shouldn’t hurt to urinate. If you experience burning with urination or a dull pain in your lower abdomen (just above your pubic bone), then you could have a UTI (urinary tract infection). In fact, pain while urinating is a very common bladder infection symptom, though it can point to more serious conditions, too. See a healthcare professional to have a urine sample analyzed. If your urinary pain is caused by an infection, your provider can give you an antibiotic to cure it.

  • 3
    Trouble urinating
    Toilet Seat Seen Through Open Door with Handle

    When you have to empty your bladder, it should be easy to start and stop the urine stream. If you feel an urgency to go but find you can’t get the urine to flow, see your healthcare provider. Difficulty urinating can be a sign of several different conditions in men and women, such as an enlarged prostate gland or prolapsed bladder. You should see a healthcare professional to obtain a diagnosis and receive appropriate treatment.

  • 4
    Frequent urination
    Man entering gym locker room or public men's room

    Feeling like you have to urinate all the time is not normal. If you find yourself mapping out public toilets before you leave the house because you have to urinate frequently, then see your healthcare provider to find out what is causing this. Frequent urination can be a sign of many types of bladder problems, including overactive bladder and bladder cancer. Getting a diagnosis can start you down the path to receiving treatment.

  • 5
    One-sided lower back pain
    Older woman on couch with heating pad on back

    If you notice you have persistent mid-to-low back pain only on one side, see your healthcare provider. This type of pain can indicate a problem with one of your kidneys, such as a kidney stone. It can also be a sign of bladder cancer. That said, many things can cause one-sided lower back pain, including sciatica (an inflammation of the nerve that runs from your spine to your foot on each side). Don’t try to self-diagnose. See a doctor instead.

  • 6
    Foul-smelling urine
    Restaurant urinal

    Urine generally should not have much of an odor. If you notice your urine takes on a strong, foul or sweet smell, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. Unusual-smelling urine can point to several health conditions, including diabetes and a UTI, though an unusual urine odor also can be caused by something you ate or a vitamin you took. If the smell persists for more than a few days, or if it’s accompanied by pain or fever, see a healthcare professional for a diagnosis.

  • 7
    Dark or cloudy urine
    elderly man at raised toilet seat

    Your urine will change color slightly on a regular basis, depending on how hydrated you are and what types of foods you’ve been eating. Dehydration can make your urine look very dark, for example, and eating beets can give your urine a pinkish tinge that goes away within a day or two. But if your urine turns cloudy or if the color of your urine doesn’t return to normal within a few days, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. Simple urine tests can determine if you need further evaluation or treatment for a serious bladder problem.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Nov 30
View All Kidneys and the Urinary System Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Bladder Cancer. MedlinePlus, U.S. Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/bladdercancer.html
  2. Urinary Tract Infection. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-tract-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20353447
  3. Bladder Cancer Symptoms and Signs. Cancer.net. https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/bladder-cancer/symptoms-and-signs
  4. Urine Odor. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007298.htm