Understanding Bladder Stones
Bladder stones or vesical calculus/ cystoliths are hard lumps of minerals that occur in the bladder due to crystallisation of minerals in concentrated urine. This can also occur when the bladder can’t be completely emptied. Characterised by severe abdominal pain and blood in the urine, bladder stones can cause infections and other serious complications in the urinary tract system.
These stones will be passed through urine if they are very small. However, at times, they get stuck to the wall of the bladder or ureter. If this happens, they gradually attract more mineral crystals, increasing in size, with passing time. The stones may vary in shape; some are near spherical while others are irregularly shaped.
Bladder stones can stay in the bladder not present any symptoms. However, if the stone irritates the bladder, it can cause the following problems:
Discomfort/ pain in the penis in men Tendency to urinate more/ interrupted urination Starting urination takes longer Pain in the lower abdomen Pain and burning sensation while urinating Blood traces in the urine Cloudy and dark urine
Bladder stones start to grow when there is urine retention in the bladder, which many can be due to:
- Neurogenic bladder (damage to the bladder and nervous system due to stroke or spinal injury) .
- Prostate enlargement
- Medical devices like catheters
- Bladder inflammation
- Kidney stones
- Bladder diverticula (formation of pouches in the bladder that hold urine)
- Cystocele (bladder wall becomes weak and drop down to the vagina)
- Bladder stones develop in males above the age of 50
- Paralysis - people with serious spinal injuries/ loss of muscle control in the pelvic region cannot empty their bladder completely.
- Bladder outlet obstruction – any condition that blocks the out flow of urine from the bladder
- Bladder augmentation surgery (incontinence surgery in women)
If left untreated, bladder stones can lead to
- Chronic bladder dysfunction - frequent and painful urination
- Urinary tract infections
- Kidney damage due to infection
Bladder stones can be prevented by:
- Drinking at least 12 glasses of water
- Decreasing intake of salt
- Decreasing intake of sugar
- Avoiding high-fat food including meat
- Avoiding fried and oily food