Bladder stones, also known as bladder calculi, are the result of the crystallization of concentrated urine in the bladder. These stones can be small enough to pass in the urine or large enough that a medical procedure is needed to remove them. Bladder stones are often found when a patient is complaining of another condition related to the lower urinary tract. This is because symptoms of related conditions will often manifest before the stones cause pain. However, on occasion, these stones may be the primary cause of pain even if they are caused by another condition.
Causes of Bladder Stones
Bladder stones usually form when urine flow is blocked and some urine remains trapped in the bladder. Because of the reduced urine flow, the urine has time to crystallize. This obstruction is commonly caused by BPH in men, since prostatic enlargement can restrict the urethral opening and urinary flow. Other risk factors for bladder stones include:
- Passed kidney stones
- Bladder infections
- Nerve damage
Symptoms of Bladder Stones
Not all bladder stones will have significant symptoms. Symptomatic bladder stones can be mildly or very painful. Some of the symptoms below may be exclusively caused by the bladder stones or be a part of the underlying cause, such as BPH.
- Difficulty, urgency or frequency in urinating
- Inability to urinate at times
- Pain in the abdomen or penis
- Blood in urine
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)
Your urologist will conduct a thorough examination using your medical history as a starting point. A digital rectal exam, X-ray, urinalysis and cystoscopy can all be used to assist in the diagnosis.
Treatment for Bladder Stones
Asymptomatic bladder stones may never be found and may never require treatment. However, since bladder stones are usually a sign of an underlying condition in the lower urinary tract, they often get worse before they get better. As such, the best and most permanent course of treatment for bladder stones is treatment of the underlying cause.
If bladder stones are smaller, flushing them may be as easy as drinking more water. For larger bladder stones that require medical intervention, patients have two options. The urologist may be able to remove the stones using a cytoscope or some severe cases may require surgery.
It is important to remember that bladder stone prevention is key. Receiving treatment for potential risk factors of bladder stones can save a great deal of pain later on. So please visit your urologist at the first signs of any bladder, or lower urinary tract problems.