Understanding Bladder Stones

What Are Bladder Stones?

  • Bladder stones are made from calcified material that is present in the urinary bladder.
  • As the name suggests, they are hard in consistency.
  • They are brown or black in colour.

Why Do Bladder Stones Occur?

Urine contains a number of substances like calcium, oxalate, uric acid etc. If an excess of urine stagnates in the bladder, these substances coagulate into small particles the size of a grain of sand. Over time these particles accumulate more material and grow in size until they become stones.

The main causes of stone formation are:

  • An enlarged prostate gland in men over the age of 60.
  • A narrow urethral passage from the kidney to the bladder which restricts the flow of urine and causes the stones to become stuck. This is common in young and middle-aged men.
  • Neurogenic bladder which is a condition where the bladder loses the power to contract properly which results in the incomplete emptying of urine and its stagnation in the bladder.
  • Foreign bodies that people introduce into their bodies out of curiosity.
  • Catheters that are left in place for extended periods of time or which are not changed on schedule can result in the formation of stones.

How Are Bladder Stones Diagnosed?

The common signs of the presence of bladder stones are:

  • Difficulty in passing urine.
  • Sudden stoppage of urine flow before the bladder is empty which may restart if the patient leans backward. This causes the stone which is blocking the flow to move from the outlet, so the flow can resume.
  • Severe pain when passing urine.
  • Those with a neurogenic bladder condition may not feel pain when passing urine but even with a catheter inserted, the draining will be incomplete.
  • Blood in the urine.

X-ray, ultrasound and CT scans are commonly used to diagnose a bladder stone condition.

What Is The Treatment?

No surgery is usually required to remove bladder stones. They are removed by the endoscopy method in which the scope is inserted into the urinary passage and used to remove the stones. If the stones are small, they are removed as they are. If the stones are a little larger, special instruments are used to break them into small pieces after which they are flushed out. A pneumonic lithotripsy device may be used to break down moderately sized stones after which they are removed. For very large stones a Holmium laser is used to break them down after which they can be removed endoscopically.

Can A Recurrence Of Bladder Stones Be Prevented?

The first stage is to diagnose and treat the underlying cause of the stone formation. Once this has been done, consuming a lot of liquids, especially water and lime juice will help to keep the system flushed and prevent stone formation. Removing red meat, nuts and cheese from the diet and cutting back on salt intake will also help to prevent stones from forming.

Article by Dr. N. Anandan, MS.,FRCS.,DIP UROL (Lond)
Consultant Urolgist, Kauvery Hospital

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