Bladder calculi - bladder stones

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Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

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

What is going on in the body?

Bladder stones are crystals that most often form when urine cannot leave the bladder due to a blockage. 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 causes and risks of the condition?

The following conditions are thought to increase the risk of bladder stones:

  • benign prostatic hyperplasia, or enlargement of the prostate gland in men
  • dehydration
  • having a urinary catheter, which is a tube used to drain urine or foreign objects in the bladder
  • prostate cancer
  • certain salt or mineral imbalances and dietary problems
  • urinary tract infection

Symptoms & Signs

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:

  • chronic pain in the bladder, which may worsen with exercise and sudden movement
  • occasional painful urination with blood at the end of urination
  • sudden, occasional, painful interruption of the urinary stream

Diagnosis & Tests

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.


Prevention & Expectations

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 urinary tract infections and avoidance of dehydration may prevent some cases. Urinary catheters and other foreign objects should be removed, or at least changed often.

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?

Bladder stones are not contagious, and pose no risk to others.


Treatment & Monitoring

What are the treatments for the condition?

Many bladder stones can be dissolved with chemicals that are put into the bladder. But 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 and removing them with tools that are inserted through a cystoscope
  • using open surgery, which is often done for very large stones

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. Surgery carries a risk of bleeding, infection, and allergic reaction to anesthesia. 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.

How is the condition monitored?

Follow-up exams are performed, and symptoms are followed. X-ray tests and laboratory tests may also be needed to monitor this condition in some cases. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.

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