Bladder Stones

What are Bladder Stones

Bladder stones are buildup of crystals made from the proteins and minerals found in urine. These substances build up when your urine becomes too concentrated.

Bladder stones usually develop when you have another medical condition that prevents your bladder from emptying completely. Crystals can form in the small amount of urine left in your bladder.

Bladder stones that grow large can become painful and block the flow of urine.

What are the causes?

Bladder stones can be caused by:

  • An enlarged prostate, which prevents the bladder from emptying well.
  • A urinary tract infection (UTI).
  • A weak spot in the bladder that creates a small pouch (bladder diverticulum).
  • Nerve damage that may interfere with the messages from your brain to your bladder muscles (neurogenic bladder). This can result from conditions such as Parkinson disease or spinal cord injuries.

What increases the risk?

This condition is more likely to develop in people who:

  • Get frequent UTIs.
  • Have another medical condition that affects their bladder.
  • Have a history of bladder surgery.
  • Have a spinal cord injury.
  • Have an abnormally shaped bladder (deformity).

What are the signs or symptoms?

Small bladder stones do not always cause symptoms. Larger stones can cause symptoms that include:

  • Abdominal pain.
  • A frequent need to urinate.
  • Difficulty urinating.
  • Painful urination.
  • Blood in the urine.
  • Cloudy or dark colored urine.
  • Pain in the penis or testicles for men.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition is diagnosed based on your symptoms, medical history, and a physical exam. The exam will include checking for abdominal tenderness. For men, a rectal exam may be done to check the prostate gland. You may also have other tests, such as:

  • A urine test (urinalysis) to find out more about your condition.
  • A urine sample test to check for other infections (culture).
  • Blood tests, including tests to look for a substance called creatinine. A creatinine level that is higher than normal could indicate a blockage.
  • A procedure to examine the inside of your bladder using a thin scope with a tiny lighted camera (cystoscopy) inserted through the urethra.

You may also have imaging studies such as:

  • A CT scan of your abdomen and pelvis to look for a stone and check whether it is blocking the flow of urine.
  • An X-ray of your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra after you have a type of dye (contrast material) injected into your veins (intravenous pyelogramor IVP).
  • An abdominal and pelvic ultrasound to locate bladder stones and identify areas where urine flow is blocked.

How is this treated?

Small bladder stones do not require treatment. They can pass out of your body on their own. You may be instructed to drink extra water to help the stone pass through the bladder.

Larger stones may need to be removed with one of the following procedures:

  • Cystolitholapaxy. A cystoscope is inserted through the urethra and into the bladder to view the stone. A laser, ultrasound, or other device is used to break the stone into smaller pieces. Fluids are used to flush the small pieces from the area.
  • Surgical removal. You may need surgery to remove the stone if it is large and causing pain. A small incision is made in the bladder to directly remove the stone.
  • If the stone blocks the flow of urine, you may have a thin, flexible tube (stent) threaded into your ureter. The stent may be left in place after removal of a stone to ensure flow of urine until healing is complete.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Drink enough fluid to keep your urine clear or pale yellow.
  • Report unusual urinary symptoms to your health care provider. Early diagnosis of an enlarged prostate and other bladder conditions may reduce your chance of getting bladder stones.
  • Avoid smoking and illegal drug use.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You feel nauseous or vomit.
  • You are unable to urinate.
  • You have a large amount of blood in your urine.

Get help right away if:

  • You have severe back pain or lower abdominal pain.
  • You are vomiting and cannot keep down any medicines or water.
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