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Bladder stones are crystallized minerals that form when concentrated urine, less water, and more waste product, is left in the bladder after urination.
About 95 percent of your urine is water. The other 5 percent contains minerals, such as salt, and waste products, such as protein. Concentrated urine can vary in color from dark amber to brown depending on the types of waste and minerals it contains.
Concentrated urine is often the result of dehydration or lack of ability to completely empty your bladder. This may be due to an enlarged prostate, bladder problems, or urinary tract infections. If left untreated, bladder stones can lead to infections and other complications.
The symptoms of bladder stones are:
More than 95 percent of people who develop bladder stones are men — especially older men with prostate problems. Men in their 80s have a much higher risk than younger men. However, even men in their 30s living in industrialized countries can develop stones, as these regions are more likely to have diets high in fat and sugar.
Children who live in developing countries are also susceptible to bladder stones as they often don't have access to enough water to stay hydrated and their diets tend to be poor.
The formation of bladder stones may be a secondary symptom of an underlying urinary tract problem. Conditions that may contribute to bladder stones include:
Bacteria and other organisms can cause bladder infections or inflammation. Urinary tract infections are a common cause of bladder stones.
Infections in the bladder begin with the introduction of bacteria. Although men develop more bladder stones, women have more bladder infections than men. Women have shorter urethras, which makes for a shorter path for bacteria to enter the bladder.
The urethra can be injured or damaged from illness, disease, or trauma. It may narrow due to infection and block the flow of urine exiting your body.
Your prostate gland surrounds your urethra, the thin tube that transports urine from your bladder during urination. When the prostate gland enlarges, it can press against the urethra and interfere with urination.
Neurogenic bladder is a condition that affects the nerves transporting messages from your brain to the muscles of your bladder. Injury or damage to these nerves may prevent your brain from telling your bladder’s muscles to contract and expand in order to urinate. This can cause urine to remain in your bladder and form stones.
The walls of your bladder may become weak in some areas and these weakened areas can form pouches that bulge outward. Urine can collect and store in these pouches.
Small stones can form in your kidneys and travel down the ureters, two tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder, and cause bladder problems. Though kidney stones differ in their development, they may become bladder stones when they reach the bladder. Small kidney stones may not present any problems and pass painlessly through your urine, but others may become large enough that they have to be removed by a physician.
If you have complications with urination or any of the symptoms associated with bladder stones, see your doctor. You will likely have a physical exam prior to other diagnostic tests and if you are a man, the physical may include checking to see if you have an enlarged prostate gland.
Diagnostic tests may include:
This test is used to check your urine for crystallization, infection, and other abnormalities.
This type of CT scan checks for complications in the bladder or anywhere else in the body, faster and more accurately than a traditional CT scanner.
Ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of the inside of your body.
X-rays show the inside of the bladder and most abnormalities that may be present, however, it may not show every stone in your bladder.
During this procedure, a dye is injected into your veins that flow through your blood vessels until it reaches your bladder. The dye highlights any abnormal formations and then X-rays are taken of the highlighted results.
If your doctor finds bladder stones in your body, they may perform a cystolitholapaxy, the use of a laser, mechanical, or ultrasound device, to break them down into smaller pieces for removal.
In cases of stones that do not break down with this procedure, surgery may be necessary to remove stones.
The long-term outlook for treating bladder stones is excellent. After treatment, you can help prevent bladder problems by drinking plenty of water every day (at least 8 glasses or 64 ounces) Also, seek prompt treatment for UTI symptoms or other urinary tract conditions.
Written by: Brindles Lee Macon and Matthew Solan
Medically reviewed on: Feb 24, 2016: Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, RN, CNE, COI
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