In the upper urinary tract, kidney stones are frequently formed by dehydration. In the lower urinary tract, bladder stones are formed primarily from obstruction of the lower urinary tract. Any time bladder stones occur in men, lower urinary tract obstruction is the likely culprit. Chronically tight pelvic floor muscles, BPH (in men), urinary strictures, and various tumors are the most common causes of bladder outlet obstruction, which often leads to the formation of bladder stones.
Like kidney stones, bladder stones form when minute particles crystallize inside the bladder and form small clusters called “stones.” Bladder stones often begin as very small kidney stones that “drop from above” and are retained by a lower urinary tract obstruction.
Bladder stones also form when urine becomes concentrated from dehydration or when some sort blockage prevents urine from flowing freely from the bladder. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can also lead to stones. So people who have chronic urinary tract infections, people who regularly wear a urinary catheter, and people who have damage to the nervous system (stroke, paraplegia, any condition that disrupts the normal innervation of the bladder) often suffer from bladder stones.
Nearly five percent of the North American population are diagnosed with urinary stones over the course of their lives. Men are three times more likely to develop bladder stones than women because men have more bladder outlet obstruction issues than women. In general, men have bladder obstruction issues; whereas, women have more bladder leakage issues. The majority of bladder stones occur between the ages of 30 and 60.
- Difficult and/or painful urination
- Blood in the urine
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Persistent urinary tract infections
- Interrupted urination
- Inability to urinate except in certain positions
The key to preventing bladder stones is stopping the underlying causes of them forming in the first place. This means addressing any lower urinary tract obstruction issues and/or UTIs before they lead to bladder stones.
Here is a brief list of simple lifestyle changes that anyone can do at home to reduce the risk of developing bladder stones.
- Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! Drink 8-10 glasses every day of the purest water available. (Water from a natural spring is best, purified water is a close second, tap water is a distant third.)
- Magnesium Glycinate supplements (Avoid Magnesium Citrate as it is a powerful laxative that can induce dehydration, which will increase your chances of developing bladder stones.)
- Citrate: Either as a prescribed medication or as the juice of one lemon in 8-10 oz. of water, once a day in the morning.
- Vitamins: Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and Vitamin A can also help prevent stones. Consult your physician or certified dietician to find out the right dose of these vitamins for you.
- Limit sugar, salt, caffeine, and processed foods
- Get plenty of exercise — and continue to hydrate while you’re exercising.
- Get your calcium from foods — not supplements.
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Good Home Test: Your urine should be the same color as tap water. If it’s not, you need to drink more water until it is.
- Medical History
- Physical exam
- Urine culture
- Urinary dynamic studies
- Various Scans: CT, KUB, and others
The most effective way to treat bladder stones is to find out what is causing them. Often this involves removing lower urinary tract obstructions and/or healing any urinary tract infection.