Stones are formed when the urine is supersaturated with salt and minerals.
They vary considerably in size and may stay in their original position, or travel down the urinary tract, producing symptoms along the way. Kidney stones are common – one in ten of the population experience them, and they occur in more men than women. You can read more at Kidney Stones.
Bladder stones are much less common than kidney stones, and almost all bladder stones occur in men, particularly men aged 50 or above, because they are often a result of an enlarged prostate.
Symptoms of Bladder Stones
Symptoms of Bladder Stones can include;
- Lower-abdominal pain, which can often be severe, and a feeling of pressure
- Pain or discomfort in the penis, during urination (dysuria) or at other times
- Blood in the urine, or dark or unusually coloured urine
- Difficulty urinating, including having to adopt a certain position, or a stop-start stream
- A more frequent urge to urinate, often with waking at night needing to ‘go’
Symptoms occur when the stone irritates the lining of the bladder or urine builds up behind it. However, these symptoms may indicate other conditions, but they will anyway require further investigation.
Causes of Bladder Stones
Bladder stones are usually caused by another problem affecting the urinary tract, such as an enlarged prostate or a urinary tract infection, a spinal injury where the nerves are damaged or even foreign objects in the bladder. These block the flow of urine, meaning the bladder never empties completely and urine remains in it for a long time, allowing the chemicals in it to form crystals, which then clump together and harden. A poor diet, rich in fats and lacking in fibre and nutrients, can also contribute to the formation of bladder stones.
Diagnosis of Bladder Stones
A rectal examination may reveal enlarged prostate or other problems, whilst blood and urine tests can show infections, etc. These will be followed by X rays of the bladder or pelvis, and a cystoscopy may be necessary.
Treatment of Bladder Stones
If the stones are small and there is no urine blockage, the best course may be to help them pass normally by drinking 6 – 8 glasses of water or more a day to increase urination. Some urinary stones that don’t pass on their own may need to be surgically removed. Stones may be broken up by administering laser beams or shock waves and the pieces removed. This can be done with a cystoscope (a small tube that passes through the urethra into the bladder), or an ureteroscope for stones lodged in your ureters.
Read more at keyhole surgery.
Urinary stones can come back if the origin is not treated and can cause persistent urinary tract infections or even permanent damage to the bladder or kidneys. Most commonly, bladder stones in men are seen with bladder outlet obstruction or Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) which is an enlarged prostate.