Ball-like masses of variable size, made of chemical deposits, that gradually form within the bladder
- Can affect adults of any age but much more common over the age of 45
- More common in males
- Genetics and lifestyle are not significant factors
Stones can form in the bladder if waste products in the urine crystallize. About 8 in 10 stones consist of calcium, which comes from excess salts in the urine. Most are between 2 mm (
The condition may develop if urine stagnates in the bladder as a result of incomplete emptying (see Urinary retention). It is also more likely to develop in people who have recurrent or persistent urinary tract infections (see Cystitis). Certain metabolic disorders, such as gout, can also give rise to increased levels of waste products in the urine and encourage the formation of bladder stones.
What are the symptoms?
A small bladder stone may not cause any symptoms. However, as a stone increases in size, it may start to irritate the bladder lining, causing some or all of the following symptoms:
Pain and difficulty passing urine.
Frequent and sometimes urgent need to pass urine.
Blood in the urine.
If you develop any of these symptoms, you should consult your doctor without delay. Left untreated, a stone may irritate the muscles in the bladder wall and cause urge incontinence. A stone that blocks the bladder outlet can cause urinary retention or cystitis, which may be intensely painful.
What might be done?
If bladder stones are suspected, you will be referred to hospital for tests such as an abdominal X-ray or specialized X-rays of your urinary tract (see Intravenous urography). You may also have samples of your blood and urine analysed to look for signs of infection and rule out an underlying metabolic disorder, such as gout. In addition, cystoscopy may be carried out to examine the lining of your bladder.
Bladder stones can usually be broken into fragments and washed out during cystoscopy. Alternatively, a form of ultrasound (see Lithotripsy) is used to pulverize the stones, which are passed out in the urine soon after the procedure. If the stones are very large, surgery may be needed to remove them.
Bladder stones often recur. About 3 in 5 of the people successfully treated for bladder stones develop the condition again within 7 years.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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