What you should know about bladder stones


What you should know about bladder stones

Mention kidney stones and most people will understand what you are referring.  Numerous individuals either know of someone who suffered from them or maybe have even experienced the agony of kidney stones themselves.  But bladder stones are another story.  Not as well-known as kidney stones, bladder stones form in the bladder and are much more common in men past the age of 50 but are much less common than kidney stones.  Some people may never even know they had one as sometimes they don’t cause any symptoms and will pass out of the body on their own.  But, unfortunately, it is likely if you have them, they will make their appearance known causing pain or other problems on urination.

What are bladder stones?

Bladder stones are hard masses of minerals in your bladder.  The bladder’s job is to collect urine that comes down from the kidneys.  As the bladder fill up throughout the day, you will get the urge to empty its contents.  Generally, the bladder will be completely emptied but there can be certain health issues preventing that from happening.  Any urine left in the bladder after urination can develop stones from minerals that crystallize in the concentrated urine. 

Symptoms of bladder stones

The signs or symptoms of bladder stones can vary from severe abdominal pain to blood in the urine.  Sometimes there may be no signs of them whatsoever as small bladder stones can pass unnoticed without treatment.  However, if a stone is irritating the walls of the bladder or is blocking the flow of urine, the symptoms can include:

·      Lower abdominal pain

·      In men, pain or discomfort in the penis or testicles

·      Burning sensation when urinating

·      Frequent urination

·      Difficulty urinating or an interruption of the urine flow

·      Blood in the urine

·      Cloudy or abnormally dark-colored urine

Causes of bladder stones

The primary cause of bladder stones is not completely emptying the bladder of urine.  This is when urine will form crystals.  Other causes can be some infections or an underlying condition affecting the bladder’s ability to hold, store, or eliminate urine.  Foreign materials in the bladder can also lead to bladder stone formation.

Prostate gland enlargement in men or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a common cause of bladder stones in men.  When the prostate is enlarged this can obstruct the flow of urine preventing a complete elimination or emptying of the bladder.

A neurogenic bladder or nerve damage can be another cause of bladder stones.  Nerves help send messages to the brain back to the bladder telling the bladder muscles to tighten or release.  When the nerves are damaged such as from a stroke, spinal cord injury or other health problem, the bladder doesn’t receive the signal so the bladder won’t empty completely.

Other possible causes can be due to inflammation, medical devices such as bladder catheters that may accidentally migrate to the bladder causing mineral crystals to form on the surface of the device, or kidney stones that may travel down the ureters into the bladder forming stones.

Diagnosis of bladder stones

To diagnosis bladder stones, the following procedures may be done:

·      A physical exam

·      Urinalysis – a urine sample will be taken to examine for microscopic amounts of blood, bacteria, and crystallized minerals.  This can also help determine if a urinary tract infection is the cause of the bladder stones.

·      CT of the bladder

·      Ultrasound to detect bladder stones

·      X-ray of the kidneys, bladder and ureters

Treatment and prevention of bladder stones

Most likely bladder stones will need to be removed which can be done with a procedure called a cystolitholapaxy.  This procedure will help break up stones into pieces small enough to pass in the urine.  If a stone is too large or hard to break up, then they can be removed surgically. 

To help increase your odds of not developing bladder stones, it is important to drink plenty of fluids, especially water to dilute the concentration of minerals in the bladder.  The amount of water to drink depends on your age, size, health and level of activity.  Generally, you are drinking enough fluids when your urine is clear.  It also helps to make sure each time you urinate, to empty the bladder out as thoroughly as possible.