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bladder stones

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Bladder stones

Alternative Names
bladder calculi, vesicle calculi, cystolith

Bladder stones are large pieces of minerals formed and retained in the urinary bladder.

What is going on in the body?
In developed countries, bladder stones occur mostly in older men. But they also occur in children. In some developing Asian countries, most bladder stones occur in children, likely due to a lack of certain vitamins and minerals in the diet.

Bladder stones usually form when urine cannot leave the bladder due to a blockage. Most are related to conditions that prevent urine from leaving the bladder. When urine builds up in the bladder, it can become infected or contain too much acid. This provides the perfect environment for stones to form.

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?
Most people with this condition only notice the symptoms of bladder blockage, since bladder stones cause few symptoms.

When bladder stones do cause symptoms, they can include:
  • occasional painful urination with blood at the end of urination
  • chronic pain in the bladder due to the stones, which may worsen with exercise and sudden movement
  • sudden, occasional, painful interruption of the urinary stream
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
The following conditions are thought to increase the risk of bladder stones:
  • dehydration.
  • blockage of urine flow from the bladder. This occurs when the prostate is enlarged or the bladder cannot get rid of urine normally.
  • bladder infections.
  • certain salt or mineral imbalances and dietary problems. For example, abnormal calcium metabolism increases the risk of getting a bladder stone. Low protein diets may also increase the risk.
  • having a urine catheter, which is a tube used to drain urine, or other foreign object in the bladder.
What can be done to prevent the condition?
The best way to prevent bladder stones is to treat problems that cause blockage of urine flow out of the bladder promptly. Treatment for urine infections and avoidance of dehydration may prevent some cases. Catheters and other foreign objects should be removed or at least changed often.

How is the condition diagnosed?
Bladder stones can be detected using various special x-ray tests. Cystoscopy may also be performed to make a diagnosis. This procedure involves inserting a special, thin tube called a cystoscope, through the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. The cystoscope has a light and camera on the end of it and can be advanced into the bladder. This allows a doctor to see the inside of the bladder.

What are the long-term effects of the condition?
Bladder stones usually do not cause long-term effects but can lead to urinary tract infections and pain if untreated.

What are the risks to others?
This is not a contagious condition and poses no risks to others.

What are the treatments for the condition?
Although many bladder stones can be dissolved with chemicals that are put into the bladder, this is such a long and difficult process that it is rarely done. Surgical therapy is generally preferred.

Most bladder stones are removed in one of these ways:
  • by breaking up the stones using a variety of energy sources and then removing the pieces through a cystoscope.
  • by breaking up the stones with tools that are inserted through a cystoscope. The cystoscope can then be used to remove the pieces.
  • using open surgery, which is often done for very large stones. This involves making a cut into the skin of the lower abdomen. The bladder wall is then cut open and the stone removed manually. Treatment of any blockage of the bladder is generally advised at the time of surgery. For example, an enlarged prostate can be removed during the surgery.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
The process of breaking up bladder stones and removing them with a cystoscope is often traumatic to the bladder. Blood in the urine can be expected for 1 to 2 weeks afterwards. Urinating may be somewhat uncomfortable during this time. All surgery carries a risk of bleeding, infection, and reactions to the anaesthetic. Tearing of the bladder or abnormal urine leakage is also possible, though rare.

What happens after treatment for the condition?
After recovery, most people can return to normal activities. Further monitoring may be needed for a period of time.

How is the condition monitored?
Follow up examinations and symptoms are followed. X-ray tests and laboratory tests may also be needed to monitor this condition in some cases.

Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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