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.
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.
Last updated: 23 December 2014
Bladder stones are small deposits of minerals that form in the bladder. Common symptoms of bladder stones include:
- pain when urinating, and
- blood in the urine.
How common are bladder stones?
In the past, bladder stones used to be a widespread condition in the United Kingdom. This is because a major risk factor for bladder stones is a poor diet that lacks a good balance of proteins and carbohydrates.
However, due to an overall improvement in most people’s diets, today bladder stones usually only affect people with underlying bladder problems, where urine stays in the bladder for longer than usual.
If urine spends a long time inside the bladder, chemicals in the urine can begin to ‘clump’ together to form crystals. Over time, the crystals can grow larger and develop into bladder stones.
Conditions that are known to cause bladder stones include:
- recurrent bladder infections,
- having an enlarged prostate gland, and
- spinal cord injuries that result in urinary incontinence.
A range of treatment options are available for bladder stones, so the outlook for the condition is good. Treatments for bladder stones are usually effective in removing them, and invasive surgery (surgery involving major incisions) is not usually required.
However if the underlying condition that caused the bladder stone is not treated (or it cannot be treated), there is a risk that the bladder stones may return.
Drinking plenty of water is the best way to prevent the recurrence of bladder stones. See the ‘prevention’ section for more information about this.
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.
Continue to next section: Symptoms of bladder stones