Bladder stones are usually small masses of minerals that form in your bladder. Bladder stones develop when urine in your bladder becomes concentrated, causing minerals in your urine to crystallize. Concentrated, stagnant urine is often the result of not being able to completely empty your bladder. This may be due to an enlarged prostate, nerve damage or recurring urinary tract infections.
Bladder stones don't always cause signs or symptoms and may be discovered during tests for other problems. When symptoms do occur, they can range from abdominal pain to blood in your urine.
Small bladder stones sometimes pass on their own, but you may need to have others removed by your doctor. Left untreated, bladder stones can cause infections and other complications.
Some people with bladder stones have no problems — even when their stones are large. But if a stone irritates the bladder wall or blocks the flow of urine, signs and symptoms can develop. These include:
Bladder stones generally begin when your bladder doesn't empty completely. The urine that's left in your bladder can form crystals that eventually become bladder stones. In most cases, an underlying condition affects your bladder's ability to empty completely.
The most common conditions that cause bladder stones include:
Other conditions that can cause bladder stones include:
Male urinary system
Your bladder stores urine produced by your kidneys and expels it through a tube called the urethra. In men, the urethral opening is at the tip of the penis. ...
Female urinary system
Your bladder stores urine produced by your kidneys and expels it through a tube called the urethra. In women, the urethral opening is above the vagina. ...
In developing nations, bladder stones are common in children — often because of dehydration, infection and a low-protein diet — but in other parts of the world, bladder stones occur primarily in older men. If you live in an industrialized country, these factors increase your risk:
Bladder stones that aren't removed — even those that don't cause symptoms — can lead to complications, such as:
Preparing for your appointment
If you have signs and symptoms of bladder stones, you're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, you may then be referred to a doctor who specializes in treating disorders of the urinary tract (urologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to arrive well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For bladder stones, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions that may come up during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Tests used to make a diagnosis of bladder stones may include:
Treatments and drugs
Generally, bladder stones should be removed. If the stone is small, your doctor may recommend that you drink an increased amount of water each day to help the stone pass. However, because bladder stones are usually caused by the inability to empty the bladder completely, spontaneous passage of the stones is unlikely. Almost all cases require removal of the stones.
Breaking stones apart
You'll likely have regional or general anesthesia prior to the procedure to make you comfortable. Complications from a cystolitholapaxy aren't common, but urinary tract infections, fever, a tear in your bladder and bleeding can occur. Your doctor may give you antibiotics before the procedure to reduce the risk of infections. About a month after the cystolitholapaxy, your doctor will likely check to make sure that no stone fragments remain in your bladder.
For centuries, some people have tried to use herbs to treat and prevent stones that form in the kidneys and bladder. Traditional herbs for bladder stones include gravel root (also called kidney root, queen of the meadow and Joe Pye), stone root (also called citronella and colinsonia) and hydrangea (wild or mountain hydrangea).
These herbs are used alone or in various combinations and drunk as tea or taken in tincture form. Some herbal formulas add marshmallow (the plant, not the confection), which is said to coat the fragments so that they can be eliminated painlessly. No studies, however, have confirmed that herbs can break up bladder stones, which are extremely hard and usually require a laser, ultrasound or other procedure for removal.
For prevention, parsley leaf is reported to have a diuretic effect and may be helpful for preventing bladder stones.
Always check with your doctor before taking any alternative medicine therapy to be sure it's safe, and that it won't adversely interact with other medications you're taking.
Bladder stones usually result from an underlying condition that's hard to prevent, but you can decrease your chance of developing bladder stones by following these tips:
Last Updated: 2011-01-15
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