Bladder Stones Symptoms, Causes and Treatments
Around one-third of men suffer from bladder stones in their lifetime. Bladder stones can cause symptoms such as frequent urination, amongst others.
What are Bladder Stones?
Urine can become concentrated, causing minerals to crystalise into a hard mass in the bladder which is referred to as a bladder stone.
Bladder Stones do not always cause symptoms, but some can be very painful as they can irritate the bladder wall, cause blockages to urine flow and can also result in bladder infections.
Bladder Stone Symptoms
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- In men, pain in the genitals
- In boys, priapism and bedwetting
- Pain/straining when urinating
- Blood in urine
- Cloudy or dark-colour to urine
- Needing to urinate more frequently - e.g. waking to go to the toilet in the night
Please note, it is essential to seek medical advice if you experience blood in your urine, abdominal pain or urination that differs from your usual pattern - e.g. needing to go to the toilet more frequently. If you have a painfully full bladder but are unable to pass water, you should go straight to A+E as this can be life-threatening.
What Causes Bladder Stones?
The most common cause is when the bladder cannot be completely emptied of urine. The urine that remains in the bladder concentrates and stagnates, and the minerals within this harden into stones. The bladder may not be fully empty for the following reasons:
- In men, an enlarged prostate gland can push on the urethra, blocking the flow of urine from the bladder (around one-third of men over the age of 50 suffer this)
- Neurogenic bladder can be caused by nervous system conditions such as injury to the spinal column, spina bifida or motor neurone disease. Nerves that control the bladder are damaged which results in the bladder not emptying fully. For this reason, many people with neurogenic bladder use catheters. However, catheters often leave a small amount of urine in the bladder which can cause bladder stones.
- In women, excessive straining through childbirth, heavy lifting or chronic constipation can weaken the bladder wall which can then drop into the vagina causing obstruction to the flow of urine. This condition is called Cystocele.
- Bladder Diverticula are bulging pouches where the lining of the bladder is pushed through a weakened bladder wall. Diverticula can be congenital (present or birth) or acquired where they can develop as a result of an enlarged prostate (obstructing the bladder) or in response to infection/scarring to the bladder wall. The diverticula can themselves obstruct the bladder preventing it from emptying fully.
- Bladder Augmentation Surgery - a section of the bowel is removed and used to make the bladder larger as a treatment, for urge incontinence. This surgery also increases the risk of developing stones.
- A kidney stone may descend through the ureter into the bladder, becoming a bladder stone.
Bladder stones occurrence can be due to dietary factors with those over 50 being more likely to suffer from conditions which result in bladder stones.
Also, diet can be a factor in their development as lack of nutrients (diet of high fat, salt and sugar) and fluids (dehydration) can alter the balance of chemicals in the urine. The best diet for prevention is low-fat and high fibre with plenty of vitamins.
Diagnosing Bladder Stones
Bladder stones can be diagnosed through urinalysis, ultrasound, x-ray, CT scan or cystoscopy (a thin camera inserted into the bladder through the urethra). They can vary in size and structure; some being smooth and round, others hard or spiked.
Treating Bladder Stones
Sometimes it is possible to pass stones without any treatment, but generally they are extremely hard, will require a laser, ultrasound or other procedure for removal to prevent infections or scarring. Also, bladder stones can be an indicator of other diseases which must be investigated medically. Treatments will differ depending on the underlying cause.
It is thought impossible to develop stones (kidney, bladder or gall) without eating meat and dairy products. A vegan diet is therefore vital when healing. Also drinking plenty of water is thought to help dissolve hardened stones.
- Drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
- Consider supplementary support, such as D-Mannose.
- Potassium citrate can increase urine levels of citrate, which is a substance that inhibits calcium stone formation. Alkalising the urine through diet is considered helpful in the same way.
- Avoid meat, eggs, and animal fats, as well as processed and fried foods. As a preventative, consider alternating meat days with veggie days.
- Medical intervention for any underlying disorder is vital.
- Avoid a diet high in oxalic acid (found in rhubarb, leafy vegetables, and coffee)