Bladder stones may occur as result of inflammation of the kidneys, bladder, or ureters. They can be asymptomatic or may cause excruciating pain in severe cases.
Bladder stones are crystal aggregates which form inside the urinary bladder especially when the urine is highly concentrated. The presence of the stone in the bladder is referred to as cystolithiasis and when it is positioned in any other part of the urinary system like the kidney then it is referred to as urolithiasis.
This stone (also referred to as cystolith) are made up of calcium or magnesium and they normally measure between 0.2-2 cm but at times they are way bigger or smaller. These bladder stones tend to irritate the bladder and affect the urine flowing outside the bladder. Although the occurrence of bladder stone is less common as compared to the kidney stones, about 95% of all the bladder stone cases occur men.
The cause of bladder stones
The major cause of these stones is the inability of an individual to clear his/her bladder completely. If urine remains in your bladder for a long time, the chemicals forming the urine start to form some crystals which come together and form a bigger bladder stone. The change in acidity of urine caused by dehydration can also result in these stones forming.
Individuals are not able to empty their bladder fully because of these reasons:
1. Some men have an enlarged prostrate gland which tends to block urine from flowing out.
2. Spinal injuries at times can result in damaging of the nerves controlling your bladder.
In many developed countries poor diet is the main cause of this stones. A diet which is minus certain nutrients can alter the chemical present in the urine thus increasing the chances of bladder stones formation. Recurring urinary tract infection can also cause the formation of these stones. Foreign materials in the bladder can also result in formation of the stones.
Signs & symptoms of bladder stone
These stones tend to plug the bladder and prevent the urine from flowing freely. In some cases the crystal can scratch the lining of the bladder thus leaving you susceptible to various other infections. At times the stones formed are too small and can pass out freely in urine and they cause no symptoms, but if they are big they cause various symptoms including:
- Severe pain waves in the lower abdomen which are accompanied with chills, nausea & vomiting.
- Pain while passing out urine.
- Blood stain in urine.
- Change in the urination pattern completely, you might start passing urine more frequently or at times wake up in the middle of the night to urinate.
- The crystals make it difficult for the patient to pass urine.
- Inability to pass urine unless staying in specific positions.
- Abnormally colored or cloudy urine.
Various tests are done to determine the cause of the symptoms and if there is a stone in the patient’s bladder some tests are done to confirm the doctor’s suspicion. These tests include urinalysis, x-rays, ultrasonography or Cystoscopy. The most commonly used test is the intravenous urography which provides a photograph of the bladder, kidney and the ureter. If the stone is there then they will be seen in these pictures.
With cystology the doctor can easily examine the bladder of the patient from the inside. This test involves inserting of a cytoscope (fibre-optic camera) into the bladder through the urethra. If stone is found in the bladder it is normally broken and washed out. This procedure is referred to as cystolitholapaxy and after the stone has been eliminated the patient is given some antibiotics to lower the infection risk.
A special kind of ultrasound referred to as lithotripsy is used to break up the crystal inside the bladder into small pieces which can be passed out with urine. If the stone are too big for this method to work then a surgical procedure is done to remove this stone.
Bladder stones tend to recur a lot so it is better to reduce the chances of it occurring again. So it is better to drink more than enough water daily and also make sure that any underlying condition for example gout is treated in time and appropriately. Drinking of plenty of water helps flush out the small crystals from the bladder. If the stone is not removed in time it might result in chronic bladder dysfunction, bladder cancer or urinary tract infection.