The bladder is a muscular sac in the pelvis, roughly the size of a pear when empty with a capacity somewhere between 400 and 500ml when full. It receives urine from the kidneys and stores it for excretion via the urethra.
Bladder stones are hard masses of minerals that form in the bladder, similar to kidney stones. While urine is around 95% water, the other 5% is made up of minerals. These are what contribute to the colour of your urine. When the bladder cannot drain properly, these minerals can crystallise, forming “stones”.
Sometimes bladder stones can form when they are tiny, which may be unnoticeable. However, they can become quite large and need to be removed. Sometimes just one stone will develop, or multiple might form. They also vary in shape.
While some bladder stones may be so small that they go unnoticed, others can cause various symptoms, particularly if they lodge in the bladder wall or block the flow of urine via the urethra.
• Pain in the bladder
• Pain in the penis (for men)
• Burning sensation during urination
• Difficulty urinating
• Blood in the urine
• Inability to control urination
• Cloudy or very dark urine
When the bladder cannot drain properly, deposits of minerals are left behind, which eventually form into a stone. This means that bladder stones are usually indicative of another condition that is affecting urination, such as:
• Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) – An enlarged prostate that disrupts urine flow via the urethra.
• Kidney stones – If they travel down into the bladder and cannot pass, they will cause an obstruction. Kidney stones are more common than bladder stones.
• Damaged nerves in the bladder – If the nerves that carry messages from your bladder muscles to your brain are damaged, it can cause problems with urination. This is known as a neurogenic bladder.
• Inflammation – If the bladder is inflamed due to an infection (such as UTI), it can cause bladder stones to form.
• Damaged urethra – If the urethra is damaged from illness, disease, or surgery, it blocks the flow of urine exiting your body.
• Medical devices – Devices such as catheters or stents may cause bladder stones.
Bladder stones that are causing symptoms will usually need to be removed. They can be treated in two ways:
Minimally invasive surgery
The most common procedure for removing bladder stones is a transurethral cystolitholapaxy. This is where a small instrument called a cystoscope is inserted into the urethra to get a visual of the stone. A laser, ultrasound or mechanical device is then used to break the stone into small pieces, which are then flushed out. This procedure is performed either under general anaesthetic. Generally, patients who have bladder stones need their prostates fixed.
If the stones are too large, open surgery may be required. First, a small incision is made in the lower abdomen. The bladder is then opened, and the stones are removed with graspers. A catheter is usually also left in for a few days.
While he is primarily a urological cancer surgeon, Dr Arianayagam also sees patients with general urological problems, including stones in the kidneys, ureters or bladder. He is happy to help anyone with bladder stones urgently as he is aware of how much pain they can cause.
If you have any questions about bladder stones or would like to book an appointment, please call Dr Arianayagam’s office on 1300 307 990, and his staff will be able to assist.
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