Bladder stones are hard, crystallized masses that form in the bladder. They can occur when the urine in the bladder becomes concentrated and causes the minerals and proteins it contains to crystalize. Bladder stones may be the result of the bladder not emptying completely during urination, which may be due to an enlarged prostate, nerve damage or recurring urinary tract infections.
Causes of Bladder Stones
When urine within the bladder becomes stagnant, bladder stones can develop as the urine becomes concentrated, causing minerals in the urine to crystallize. Bladder stones are less common than kidney stones and mostly affect men who have an enlarged prostate, frequent urinary tract infections, or obstruction of the urinary tract. Diet and the lack of fluid intake can also be a factor in the development of bladder stones.
Symptoms of Bladder Stones
Common symptoms of bladder stones include lower abdominal pain, painful urination and blood in the urine. Other symptoms may include:
- Frequent need to urinate
- Difficulty urinating
- Abnormally dark urine
Men may also experience penile discomfort or pain.
Diagnosis of Bladder Stones
Bladder stones are diagnosed through a physical examination and may include the following tests:
- Blood tests
- Intravenous pyelogram
An ultrasound of the abdomen may also be performed.
Treatment of Bladder Stones
Different treatment options may be recommended based on the size and severity of the bladder stones. There are several different treatments for bladder stones.
Increased Fluid Intake
If the stones are small, it may be recommended to increase fluids by drinking six to eight glasses of water or more per day. This helps to increase urination, which may help the stones pass.
A cystolitholapaxy is a common procedure that a doctor may perform to treat bladder stones. Using a cystoscope, a small tube is passed through the urethra to the bladder and a laser may be used to break up the stones so they will pass through the bladder.
Bladder stones that are too large or difficult to break up, may be removed by a surgical incision into the bladder. The doctor makes an incision in the bladder and directly removes the stones.
If bladder stones are left untreated, they may cause repeated urinary tract infections or permanent damage to the bladder or kidneys.
Prevention of Bladder Stones
While all bladder stones cannot be avoided, drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, may help prevent them by diluting the concentration of minerals in the bladder. Prompt treatment of urinary tract infections or other urinary tract conditions may also help to prevent bladder stones.