Bladder Stones Symptoms, Causes and Treatments
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 genitalia.
- In boys, priapism and bedwetting.
- Pain/straining when urinating.
- Blood in urine.
- Cloudy or dark-colour to urine.
- Needing to urinate more frequently.
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, for example, needing to go to the toilet more frequently. If you have a painfully full bladder but are unable to pass water, you should immediately see a Doctor as this can be life-threatening.
What Causes Bladder Stones?
The most common cause of bladder stones is urinary retention, when the bladder cannot be completely emptied of urine. The urine that remains in the bladder concentrates and stagnates, and the minerals within this concentrate and form into stones. The bladder may not be fully empty for the following reasons:
- In men, an enlarged prostate gland can press 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 also cause bladder stones.
- In women, excessive straining through childbirth, heavy lifting or chronic constipation can weaken the bladder wall which can cause a prolapse and cause obstruction to the flow of urine. This condition is called Cystocele.
- Bladder Diverticula are bulging pouches inside the bladder, which have pushed through a weakened bladder wall. Diverticula can be congenital (present or birth), acquired as a result of an enlarged prostate (obstructing the bladder) or from scarring of the bladder wall caused by infection.
- 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 bladder stones.
- A kidney stone may descend through the ureter into the bladder, becoming a bladder stone.
Diet may also be a factor in the development of bladder stones as lack of nutrients and fluids can alter the balance of chemicals in the urine. The best diet for the prevention of bladder stones is a low-fat, high fibre diet with plenty of vitamins and fluids.
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 sharp.
Treating Bladder Stones
It is sometimes possible to pass stones without any treatment. Raising the pH of your urine to 6.5 or above will help dissolve uric acid stones. Other procedures include using a laser or ultrasound during transurethral cystolitholapaxy where a small tube with a camera attached to it, is inserted into the urethra and used to help locate the stones before breaking them into smaller fragments. 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.
- Avoid red meat, eggs, and animal fats, as well as processed and fried foods.
- Medical intervention for any underlying disorder is vital.
- Avoid a diet high in oxalic acid found in rhubarb, leafy vegetables, and coffee.