NCMA’s Santa Rosa Urology and Dr. Michael Lazar provide diagnostics, treatment and management of a full spectrum of urologic health conditions including bladder stones.
Bladder stones are exactly what they sound like; hard stone-like pieces of concentrated urine which have crystallized and clumped together. Interestingly enough, in developing nations bladder stones are fairly common in children – and sadly as a result of dehydration, infection and a low-protein diet. In the U.S. bladder stones tend to occur primarily in adults, and men over the age of 30 are the most vulnerable.
How stones get in the bladder
While water makes up the majority of urine content, about five percent is made up of minerals and salts along with proteins and other waste products. When urine becomes overly concentrated due to dehydration, infection or other problems the color will vary from dark amber to brown depending on the types of waste and minerals it contains.
Bladder stones can become so large or numerous that they block the tube (called a urethra) that urine flows through from the bladder. A blocked urethra may cause slow and/or painful urination or it might make urination impossible. Sometimes bladder stones cause no problems at all — even when stones become quite large. However, real problems begin to develop as stones irritate the bladder wall or block the flow of urine, causing a variety of symptoms including:
- Pain in lower abdomen
- Painful and frequent urination
- Difficulty urinating or interruption of urine flow
- Blood in urine
- Cloudy or abnormally dark-colored urine
A variety of causes
In the case where prostate gland enlargement causes bladder stones in men, the urethra has become compressed by the enlarged prostate, which in turn interrupts urine flow, causing urine to remain in the bladder, leading to bladder stones.
Sometimes damaged nerves can be the culprit. In a healthy person nerves work to carry messages from the brain to the bladder muscles, telling the bladder muscles to constrict or relax. If these nerves are damaged due to stroke, spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, a herniated disk or other health problem – the bladder may not empty completely, again leading to bladder stones.
Bladder stones can also develop if the bladder becomes inflamed due to urinary tract infections or even radiation therapy to the pelvic area. Bladder catheters can also cause bladder stones as can objects that accidentally migrate to bladder, such as a contraceptive device or stent. When this happens mineral crystals tend to form on the surface of these foreign objects, leading to stones. And finally, stones that have formed in the kidneys can occasionally travel down the ureters into the bladder and, if not expelled by natural means, can grow into larger bladder stones.
While medications are rarely used to dissolve the stones, drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water or more per day will help to increase urination, which may help smaller bladder stones pass naturally. A qualified urologist will remove larger stones using an instrument called a cystoscope, which is a small tube that passes through the urethra to the bladder – and some more troublesome stones may need to be removed by surgery. For patients with enlarged prostate and bladder stones, transurethral resection of the prostate can be performed where the stone or stones are removed.
The best way to prevent bladder stones from forming in healthy people is to be mindful to always stay hydrated and to seek early treatment for urinary tract infections or other urinary tract conditions.
In addition to bladder stones and general urologic medicine services, NCMA’s Santa Rosa Urology and Dr. Michael Lazar also specialize in urologic oncology, reconstructive urology, male infertility/erectile dysfunction and high intensity ultrasound for prostate cancer. To learn more visit our website or to make an appointment with Dr. Lazar call (707) 546-5553.