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Bladder stones, also called bladder calculi, are hard pieces of mineral buildup that form in the bladder. Patients experiencing severe bladder stones may have been infected with a UTI (urinary tract infection) by using their bladder catheter. Bladder stones usually form because of an enlarged prostate or UTI. These conditions can cause the bladder to concentrate urine and crystalize materials into a clump. The clump, or stone, blocks the urethra and prevents urine from flowing. The blocked tube can cause extreme pain as well as the complete inability to urinate. Bladder stones are 95% more likely to occur in men than women.
Bladder stones usually occur when the bladder fails to empty itself completely. They tend to affect adults with poor fluid intake and recurrent UTIs. Bladder stones are more common in areas with poor water supplies, such as the Middle East, Far East and North Africa.
Other causes may include:
- Poor diet
- Enlarged prostate
- Neurogenic bladder
- Bladder diverticulum
- Foreign objects in the bladder
It is rare to see symptoms until the stone has either blocked the urethra or irritated the bladder wall. When these signs appear, the following symptoms can occur:
- Lower abdominal pain
- Need to urinate often
- Painful urination
- Bloody or dark urine
Bladder stones can be prevented with prompt treatment of UTIs or other urologic conditions. This includes early detection of enlarged prostates. If you show symptoms of a weak urine stream, a urinary stream that starts and stops, or frequent urination, you should seek medical assistance immediately because you may have an enlarged prostate. Bladder stones may also be prevented by an increased consumption of water. Water dilutes the concentration of minerals in the bladder.
Bladder stones may pass on their own without the need of medical assistance, but often the symptoms are too painful to ignore. Hospital treatments include ESWL (extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy), which uses ultrasonic waves to help dissolve the bladder stone. The health care professional may also use a cystoscope, which is similar to a bladder catheter because it is also inserted through the urethra and into the bladder. It provides a visual and collects tissue or urine samples. A cystoscope also can be used to remove smaller bladder stones that would have otherwise required more extensive surgery.
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