Bladder Stones: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Bladder Stones: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

What are bladder stones?

Bladder stones are hardened mineral clumps that form in your urinary bladder (the organ that holds your urine). They usually form when some urine (pee) stays in your bladder after you use the restroom.

You may not notice small bladder stones. They may leave your body when you pee without any symptoms. Larger bladder stones may be so painful that you may feel sick to your stomach, aren’t able to pee and have other symptoms, such as bloody urine. Go to the nearest emergency room (ER) if you have bladder stone signs, including severe pain, difficulty peeing and other worsening symptoms.

Another name for bladder stones is bladder calculi.

How common are bladder stones?

Only about 5% of all stones that can develop in your urinary system are bladder stones.

Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of bladder stones?

You may pee out smaller bladder stones without any obvious symptoms. Large bladder stones can irritate your bladder and cause intense pain, bleeding and problems peeing. Signs and symptoms of a larger bladder stone may include:

  • Changes in the color of your pee. Your pee may look cloudy or dark. You may also see blood in your pee (hematuria).
  • Frequent urges to pee. You may feel like you always need to pee, even if you just went.
  • Pain. It’s common to feel pain or a burning sensation when you pee (dysuria). You may also feel pain that comes and goes in the lower part of your abdomen (belly), penis or testicles.
  • Stopping and starting when you pee. You may have a difficult time starting to pee and maintaining a strong flow, even if you really have to go. Sometimes your pee stream stops and starts (urinary intermittency).
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs). Bladder stones often cause UTIs. UTI symptoms include frequent, painful urination. Your pee may also be cloudy and smelly.

What are the common causes of bladder stones?

Bladder stones form when pee sits in your bladder too long. The waste products that leave your body — salt, potassium, protein waste products and so on — clump together (concentrate) and form hard crystals. This process most frequently happens when you can’t completely empty your bladder when you pee.

Several conditions and factors increase your risk of bladder stones, including:

  • Augmentation cystoplasty (bladder augmentation). During a bladder augmentation procedure, a surgeon uses tissue from your intestines (bowels) to make your bladder larger and improve how it works. Sometimes the procedure can cause pee to pool in your bladder.
  • Bladder diverticula. Diverticula are pockets or cave-like openings that can appear in hollow organs, such as your intestines or bladder. They can hold pee and make it hard to completely empty your bladder. Bladder diverticula can occur at birth (congenital) or develop later in life due to a disease or an enlarged prostate.
  • Cystocele (dropped bladder). Some people develop a cystocele after childbirth. The supportive ligaments and muscles that hold up your bladder stretch and weaken. This allows the bladder to drop into your vagina, which can block your urine flow.
  • Dehydration. Drinking water and other fluids helps to dilute the minerals in your pee and flush out your bladder. Not drinking enough fluids can cause minerals to build up and lead to bladder stones.
  • Enlarged prostate. The prostate can get bigger in men and people assigned male at birth (AMAB) as they age. This enlargement can partially block the urethra (the tube through which pee leaves your bladder and body). The extra pressure necessary to pee can make it difficult to completely empty your bladder.
  • Kidney stones. Bladder stones are similar to kidney stones. Sometimes, a kidney stone travels from your kidney into your bladder. If a kidney stone passes into your bladder, you can usually pee it out. However, very rarely, the stone can get stuck in your bladder and grow larger.
  • Neurogenic bladder. Neurogenic bladder is when nerve damage from a spinal cord injury, stroke, congenital abnormality (such as spina bifida) or another disease or condition affects how your bladder works and allows you to pee. People with neurogenic bladder often need a thin, flexible tube (urinary catheter) to drain their bladders. However, sometimes catheters can’t drain all of the pee in your bladder.
  • Medical devices. Medical devices that go into your bladder (such as catheters) can cause bladder stones. The bladder stones may form from crystals that develop on the device. This typically only happens if the device remains in your body longer than a provider recommends.

Are bladder stones contagious?

No, bladder stones aren’t contagious. They aren’t sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and you can’t spread them to another person.

Who do bladder stones affect?

Anyone can get bladder stones, but men and people assigned male at birth (AMAB) over 50 are more likely to develop them.

Around half of people AMAB over 50 have benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH causes your prostate to get bigger. The prostate is about the size of a golf ball, and it makes some of the fluid in your semen (ejaculate) when you orgasm. An enlarged prostate can make it difficult to completely drain your bladder when you pee. Stones can form when pee sits in your bladder for too long.

You’re also more likely to get bladder stones if you:

  • Have nerve damage that affects your bladder, such as a spinal cord injury.
  • Had specific types of bladder surgery, such as an augmentation cystoplasty.
  • Have a kidney stone that can’t pass out of your bladder.

Diagnosis and Tests

How are bladder stones diagnosed?

A healthcare provider will:

  • Review your medical history.
  • Ask questions about your symptoms.
  • Conduct a physical examination.

They may also order tests to help confirm a bladder stone diagnosis.

What tests will be done to diagnose bladder stones?

A healthcare provider may order the following tests to help diagnose bladder stones:

  • Urine test (urinalysis). During a urinalysis, you’ll pee into a special cup. Your provider will send your sample to a lab, where technicians will check it for small bladder stones. They’ll also check your sample for signs of a UTI or blood.
  • Imaging tests. Your provider may order a computed tomography (CT) scan, X-ray and/or ultrasound to see clear pictures of your bladder. These tests show the size, shape and location of bladder stones.
  • Cystoscopy. Your provider passes a long, flexible, pencil-sized lighted tube with a camera on the end (cystoscope) through your urethra to your bladder to look for stones.

Management and Treatment

How do I get rid of bladder stones?

Typically, a urologist must remove bladder stones. A urologist is a doctor who specializes in conditions that affect the urinary system and male and female reproductive systems. Bladder stone treatment options typically include:

  • Cystolitholapaxy. During this minimally invasive procedure, a provider inserts a cystoscope into your bladder through your urethra to locate the bladder stone. They then use a laser or high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to break the stone into smaller pieces. They then wash out your bladder with fluids to remove the smaller pieces.
  • Surgery. If your bladder stone is especially large, you may need open surgery to remove it. The urologist will use a sharp knife (scalpel) to make a small cut (incision) in your abdomen and take out the stone. If your stone develops because of benign prostate hyperplasia, the urologist may also remove prostate tissue that blocks your urethra.

How do you treat bladder stones naturally?

If you have a small bladder stone, you may be able to naturally pass it by increasing the amount of fluids you drink. However, bladder stones often develop because pee remains in your bladder for too long. Drinking more fluids may not help.

What dissolves bladder stones fast?

It’s very rare that you can dissolve a bladder stone. It depends on what materials make up your stone, and it can take a long time.

How soon after treatment will I feel better?

Most people recover a week or two after a cystolitholapaxy or surgery.


Can bladder stones be prevented?

You may not be able to prevent bladder stones. But you can lower your risk by drinking plenty of water. Water dilutes minerals in your pee, so they’re less likely to clump together and form bladder stones. Talk to a healthcare provider about how much water you should drink every day.

It’s a good idea to talk to a healthcare provider if you’re over 50 and have an enlarged prostate. They may recommend specific techniques or medications to help empty your bladder.

You can also help lower your risk of developing certain types of stones by modifying your diet or taking specific medications.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have bladder stones?

Some small bladder stones may pass out of the body when you pee without treatment — you may not even have any noticeable symptoms. But for most bladder stones that don’t pass on their own, a urologist can remove them with a minimally invasive procedure or surgery. With proper treatment, bladder stones don’t cause long-term health problems.

Without treatment, bladder stones can cause pain, difficulty peeing, bleeding and infection. Talk to your provider if you have a condition — such as BPH — that increases your chances of developing bladder stones. If you don’t treat the cause, bladder stones may form again.

When can I go back to work/school?

Most people can return to work, school and other regular activities a few days after getting bladder stone treatment.

Living With

How do I take care of myself?

The following tips can help provide relief if you have bladder stone symptoms:

  • Drink lots of fluids. Drinking lots of water, tea or coffee may help clear small bladder stones. Your pee should be clear or pale yellow. You’re not drinking enough fluids if your pee is dark yellow.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs help relieve pain. Not everyone can take NSAIDs, so it’s a good idea to check with a healthcare provider before you take them.
  • Take anti-nausea medications. Bladder stone pain can sometimes cause nausea and vomiting. Over-the-counter (OTC) anti-nausea medications like bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol®) can help relieve queasiness.
  • Take alpha-blockers. A healthcare provider may prescribe an alpha-blocker to help pass a small bladder stone.

What can’t I eat/drink if I have a bladder stone?

Certain foods and drinks can increase your chances of developing bladder stones. These include products that contain a lot of sodium (salt) and sugars. To help prevent bladder stones, it’s a good idea to avoid:

  • Processed foods.
  • Fast food.
  • Canned soups and vegetables.
  • Lunch meats.
  • Soda pop.

When should I see a healthcare provider?

Talk to a healthcare provider if you have any bladder stone symptoms. Stones continue to grow when they remain in your bladder, so it’s important to get treatment as soon as you notice signs.

When should I go to the ER?

Go to the nearest emergency room if the pain becomes too severe to manage and you have difficulty peeing.

What questions should I ask a healthcare provider?

  • How do you know that I have a bladder stone?
  • Do I have one bladder stone or multiple stones?
  • How big is my bladder stone?
  • Can I pass the stone naturally?
  • What treatment do you recommend?
  • What are the odds that I get a bladder stone again?
  • Should I make any changes in my diet to prevent bladder stones?

Additional Common Questions

What is the difference between kidney stones and bladder stones?

Kidney stones develop in one or both of your kidneys. Your kidneys are part of your urinary system. They filter your blood and make pee.

Bladder stones develop in your bladder.


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