Bladder stones are crystalized minerals such as calcium or magnesium salts which develop in the urinary bladder. They form when urine in the bladder becomes highly concentrated or when a person remains dehydrated on a regular basis. The size and number of bladder stones vary in patients. In some cases, small bladder stones may pass through urine and may not require any treatment. However, some larger stones which cannot pass with urine require intervention either through medication or surgery. Untreated bladder stones can lead to serious infections and health complications in the patient.
What Are the Causes of Bladder Stones?
Bladder stones are typically caused when the bladder is not completely empty, and the urine starts forming mineral crystals. The stones may also be formed because of:
- Prostate Gland Enlargement: In men, a large prostate gland can obstruct the flow of urine leading to the formation of bladder stones.
- Neurogenic Bladder: : Neurogenic bladder or a bladder with damaged nerves can also cause bladder stones as the damaged nerves may affect the urination and prevent the bladder from getting empty.
- Bladder Inflammation: is caused by urinary tract infection (UTI) is also one of the reasons for the formation of bladder stones.
- Medical Devices: Bladder catheters or other medical devices such as a contraceptive device or urinary stent can also cause bladder stones, if they reach the bladder and remain for long periods.
- Kidney Stones: In some cases, the bladder stones are the kidney stones that travel down to the bladder and become larger as bladder stones.
- Bladder Diverticula: At times, pouches may develop in the bladder that can hold the urine, leading to the development of bladder stones.
- Cystocele: Cystocele is a condition in women in which the bladder wall becomes weak and drops down to the vagina. This condition prevents complete flow of urine that can cause bladder stones.
What Are the Symptoms of Bladder Stones?
It is noted that in some cases, the bladder stones, irrespective of their size, do not show any sign or symptom making it difficult for the person to be aware of such health complications. However, if the stones begin irritating the bladder wall or stop the flow of urine, some of the bladder stone symptoms listed below may appear.
- Severe Pain in The Lower Abdomen
- Burning Sensation During Urination
- Frequent Urination
- Discomfort and Pain in Penis or Testicles in Men
- Blood in Urine
- Dark and Cloudy Urine
- Difficulty in Urination
Diagnosis of Bladder Stones
If anyone experiences any of the listed signs and symptoms, they should immediately consult a doctor for the diagnosis of bladder stones. Some of the tests that the doctors recommend are:
- Physical Exam: The doctors examine the lower abdomen to check if the bladder is full. They may also check the rectum to identify an enlarged prostate gland.
- Urinalysis: Urine samples are taken to check the presence of blood, bacteria and crystallized minerals and any infections.
- Ultrasound: This step is taken to ensure the presence of bladder stone by creating live images of the internal organs.
- X-ray: A common diagnostic procedure, an X-ray is also used for checking the presence of bladder stones.
- Intravenous pyelogram: In this test, a radiocontrast agent is injected into the patient which travels through the kidneys and bladder. X-ray images are also taken simultaneously to identify the bladder stones.
- Spiral computerized tomography (CT) scan: Patients may have to go through this test that builds up a detailed image of the internal organs for diagnosis.
Bladder Stones Treatment
Treatment depends upon size of stone. Initially, the doctors advise the patient to drink plenty of water so that the bladder stone of small size (3-4mm) are able to pass through urine naturally. However, this may not happen, and surgery is usually required to remove bladder stones of larger size from the body. The doctors usually suggest bladder stone treatment by either breaking the stones into pieces through a procedure called cystolitholapaxy or laser lithotripsy or performing surgery to remove the large stones from the bladder.