Bladder stones 

Introduction 

Prostate enlargement animation

One of the most common causes of bladder stones in men is when an enlarged prostate prevents a man from being able to fully empty his bladder. This animation explains what the prostate gland is and how it functions.

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The bladder

The bladder is a hollow, balloon-like organ that is located in the pelvis and is designed to store urine.

The kidneys filter waste products out of your blood which are mixed with water to create urine. The urine is passed out of your kidneys and into your bladder through two tubes known as the ureters.

When your bladder is full, the urine passes out of your body through a tube called the urethra, when you urinate.

Bladder stones are stones that form inside the bladder, which can vary in size.

The stones can irritate the wall of the bladder, disrupt the flow of urine out of the bladder and cause infections.

This can cause symptoms such as:

  • pain, which can often be severe, in the lower abdomen
  • changes to the normal pattern of urination, such as having to pass urine more frequently or waking up in the night needing to go to the toilet
  • blood in your urine 
  • pain when urinating

Read more about the symptoms of bladder stones.

When to see your GP

It is recommended that you contact your GP if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above. They are not necessarily the result of bladder stones but they will require further investigation.

Why bladder stones happen

The most common cause of bladder stones is when a person is unable to completely empty the urine from their bladder.

If urine sits in the bladder for a long time, chemicals in the urine form crystals which come together and harden to form bladder stones.

Reasons why a person may be unable to empty their bladder completely include:

  • in men, having an enlarged prostate gland that blocks the flow of urine out of the bladder
  • an injury to the spine that damages the nerves used to control the bladder, particularly in people with catheters

Read more about the causes of bladder stones.

A poor diet can also contribute to the formation of bladder stones. A diet lacking in nutrients and fluids can change the chemical make-up of urine, making the formation of stones more likely.

A low-fat, high-fibre diet is recommended, including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day) and wholegrains.

Read more about healthy eating.

Treatment

Surgery is usually required to remove the stones from the bladder. The most common procedure is known as a cystolitholapaxy, where a telescope and stone-crushing devices are used to break up the stones before they are removed.

It is also important to treat the underlying causes of bladder stones (where possible) to prevent new stones developing in the future.

Read more about treating bladder stones.

Who is affected?

Each year in England an estimated 6,000 people go into hospital to be treated for bladder stones.

Most cases of bladder stones affect older men aged 50 or above, because of the link with prostate enlargement.

Bladder stones can affect children, but this is much less common, with an average of 20 to 40 cases a year.

Page last reviewed: 07/11/2013

Next review due: 07/11/2015

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