Bladder stones are mineral formations that develop in the bladder. When you aren’t able to empty your bladder properly, urine can become more concentrated and the minerals in your urine can crystallize. Over time, these crystals clump together to form stones. You may not know that you have bladder stones unless they move and create a blockage.
There are several reasons why you may not be able to void your bladder completely, including prostate gland enlargement, damaged nerves, inflammation, and irritation from medical devices like catheters.
There may be no symptoms from bladder stones until they move into a position that blocks urine flow into or out of your bladder. If urine flow is partially blocked, you may experience abdominal pain, painful or more frequent urination, discolored urine, or blood in your urine. Men may feel pain in the penis.
Bladder stones are usually caused when the bladder fails to empty properly, which causes minerals in the urine to form crystals. There is often an underlying medical condition present which prevents correct storage and elimination of urine. In other cases, it is a urinary tract infection (UTI) which causes the stones.
Prostate gland enlargement is one such example of a condition which can lead to bladder stones. The prostate becomes large enough that it obstructs normal urine flow and prevents all urine from being completely eliminated from the bladder.
In other cases, damaged nerves might cause the bladder to function incorrectly and fail to empty properly. Known as “neurogenic bladder”, this can occur as a result of things like stroke or spinal cord injury.
Any foreign material in the bladder can lead to bladder stones, because the urine tends to form crystals on the surface of the material. Things like bladder catheters or migrated urinary stents could be responsible.
Finally, kidney stones can occasionally cause bladder stones. If the kidney stones are small enough to travel down the ureter to the bladder and are not then passed during urination, minerals in urine may crystallize on them and create larger bladder stones.
Some types of bladder stones can be dissolved through the use of potassium citrate to change the pH of the urine. This can be effective for smaller stones that aren’t causing immediate issues. Larger bladder stones may be removed via endoscopic surgery. Doctors can access the stone through the urethra and break it up. In some cases, especially with larger stones, a full surgery through the bladder may be necessary.
Once you have been diagnosed with bladder stones, and following their removal, your doctor may put you on a special diet and recommend that you drink plenty of water so that the stones do not reoccur. You may also be monitored with ultrasound or other imaging to ensure large stones do not form again.
It is not always possible to prevent bladder stones from occurring as a result of another underlying condition. However, it may be possible to prevent them developing after a UTI by seeking urgent treatment for the infection.
Drinking plenty of fluids, particularly water, might help to prevent bladder stones. This is because the fluid will help to dilute the concentration of minerals in your urine to reduce the risk of crystals forming.