Bladder stones are one particular issue that men should be wary of.
In some cases, they may need medical intervention. They can also lead to potential complications, including a risk of infection, when not treated.
In this article, we will take a closer at bladder stones, which symptoms that men should look out for, and some of the most common causes behind this medical issue.
What are Bladder Stones?
Bladder stones are masses that primarily consist of certain minerals. As the name of the condition implies, these stones tend to form in the bladder.
The development of bladder stones occurs when concentrated urine found within the bladder starts to crystallize. As the urine crystallize, it tends to form stones.
These stones are sometimes relatively small. In this case, a person may be able to pass them without medical intervention.
In other cases, however, bladder stones may become too large to be passed through the urethra. In these cases, it becomes critical for a patient to see a physician to obtain treatment for the condition.
Stones can develop in various parts of the urinary tract. In one study, researchers found that men are much more likely to develop bladder stones. Among a group of patients analyzed, the prevalence of bladder stones was 14.6%.
Other stones included renal and ureteric in nature. Men were also found to be two and a half times at a higher risk to suffer these conditions compared to women. A total of 24.4% of patients with these stones were found to have already experienced a collection of bacteria in the urinary tract, putting the individual at significant risk of infection.
What are the symptoms of Bladder Stones?
Due to the potential complications that may be caused by bladder stones, men need to understand the symptoms.
In most cases, symptoms will start to develop if the stones irritate the bladder wall. If the stones become big and cause a blockage of urine, then additional symptoms may also begin to develop.
The following are all important symptoms that men should take notice of:
● The urinary difficulty is a common symptom that may indicate a blockage of urine in the bladder, often due to the size of the stone.
● Urine flow may be interrupted.
● In some cases, blood may be present in urine.
● Urine may also have a darker color than normal or seem cloudy.
● Men may also find that they need to urinate more frequently if they have bladder stones.
There are cases where bladder stones may also cause a man to experience pain in the lower abdominal area.
Who’s at risk of Bladder Stones?
One of the most important risk factors for the development of bladder stones is gender.
Men are considered to be more than twice as likely to develop this particular condition when compared to women. Age also seems to play a role. Men over the age of 50 tend to suffer more from this type of medical problem compared to younger men.
Certain conditions may also become a risk factor and increase a man’s likeliness of developing bladder stones.
Men who have had a stroke in the past might also suffer nerve damage, which increases their risk of bladder stones. Parkinson’s disease is another condition associated with nerve damage.
Certain conditions can obstruct the way that urine is intended to flow, which occurs from the bladder through the urethra.
When such an obstruction exists due to the presence of a medical condition, then the man is also more likely to suffer from bladder stones.
In some men, there is a double increase in the risk due to the presence of nerve-related damage, as well as a health condition that obstructs the bladder’s outlet.
Causes of Bladder Stones
The layout of the male urinary tract system causes a significant increase in the risk of bladder stones in men.
One element of the male urinary tract system that needs to be taken into account here is the prostate gland. While this gland plays a critical role in reproductive health, it is situated around the urethra, just below the bladder.
A condition known as an enlarged prostate, (BPH), is often the cause behind bladder stones in male patients.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia is a condition where the risk greatly increases with age, which correlates to the fact that bladder stones are also more prevalent among older men. About 8% of men are affected by benign prostatic hyperplasia by the age of 40. The prevalence greatly increases with age, however. An estimated 60% of men are affected by the condition by the age of 90 years.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia causes the prostate gland to become inflamed and enlarged.
In turn, this creates a restriction in the urethra and can also limit the flow of urine from the bladder. The result may be the crystallization of urine in the bladder, which then leads to bladder stones.
While prostate enlargement is the most common cause of bladder stones in men, other causes should be noted as well.
Below is an overview of additional conditions and causes that have been linked to bladder stones:
This condition refers to damage that has been suffered by the nerves that are responsible for controlling the bladder. When a person suffers neurogenic bladder, then they are usually unable to empty their bladder completely.
The urine that remains in the bladder is what causes crystallization and eventually leads to the formation of bladder stones. The condition has various causes, including spina bifida and motor neuron disease.
This is a condition that causes pouches to develop on the bladder wall. These pouches are referred to as diverticula. In some cases, the pouches become big, which can cause problems with fully emptying the bladder during urination.
As with neurogenic bladder, the left-over urine starts to crystallize, and stones begin to form. Bladder diverticular has been linked to prostate enlargement, but may sometimes also be a complication that is caused by an infection.
Many people do not realize it, but diet also tends to have a significant impact on the bladder. It has been found that a diet that is high in salt, sugar, and fat can contribute to a higher risk of bladder stones.
Additionally, it has also been found that a lack of vitamin Bs and vitamin A in a diet can result in a significant increase in the risk of this condition.
Even though kidney stones are not the same as bladder stones, it is important to note that when stones in the kidney are small enough, they can sometimes travel toward the bladder. When these stones move from the kidney to the bladder, they can start to grow and become bladder stones.
Another important cause behind bladder stones is inflammation. Inflammation that affects certain parts of the urinary tract can lead to complications. This includes inadequate emptying of the bladder when a man urinates. This can then cause bladder stones to develop.
A urinary tract infection is an example of a condition that may cause inflammation in the area. When a patient receives radiation therapy in the pelvic region, it may also cause inflammation to develop.
While catheters are useful in several cases, the use of a bladder catheter can sometimes cause bladder stones to develop. A catheter is used to assist with the drainage of the bladder, but often leaves very small amounts of urine behind in the bladder. The urine that remains in the patient’s bladder may crystallize and become stones.
Diagnosing Bladder Stones
Men who experience symptoms associated with bladder stones are urged to consult with a physician.
This can help to ensure the condition is diagnosed, and appropriate treatments are implemented to help resolve the issue and reduce the risk of complications developing.
The first step to the diagnosis of bladder stones is a consultation with a doctor. During this consultation, the doctor will ask the patient about the symptoms that they are experiencing. This will help the doctor determine if the cause might be bladder stones or if anything underlying condition may be present.
A physical examination will also be required. The physician will try to feel if the bladder may be enlarged, which could indicate inflammation.
Once the physical examination has been conducted, a number of additional tests may be ordered to make a more accurate diagnosis. This will help the doctor determine if there are bladder stones present in the bladder of the male patient.
In such a case, the tests will provide details on how big the stones are – which will provide the doctor with the information needed to develop a treatment plan for the patient.
Some of the tests that the doctor may order include:
● Urine test – a urine sample of the patient, is collected. The sample will be used to determine if small amounts of blood are present. Additionally, a laboratory can also detect the presence of crystallized minerals in the urine, as well as bacteria, which may indicate an infection. An infection can lead to bladder stones, but could also be a complication of the condition.
● X-rays – The doctor may need to have x-rays taken of the bladder, ureters, and the kidneys of the patient. This can help to provide an overview of stones that might have collected in the bladder and other parts of the patient’s urinary tract system.
● Ultrasound – An ultrasound can also be used to assist in the detection of bladder stones. Sound waves are bounced off internal structures of the patient’s body; thus creating images that assist with the diagnostic process.
● CT Scan – A CT scan is another option that can be used to detect the presence of bladder stones. The major benefit of a CT scan is the fact that the technology can often assist in the detection of smaller stones, which may not be picked up with an ultrasound or standard x-rays.
Complications of Bladder Stones
The complications of bladder stones need to be noted by men who experience these symptoms, as this creates an urgency for consulting with a physician.
Complications may include a urinary tract infection. Some patients may experience repetitive infections in the urinary tract. Chronic bladder problems may also develop as a complication, especially when bladder stones are not treated promptly.
If the bladder stones are small, then the consumption of extra water may sometimes assist in ensuring the stones pass.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. A physician might advise a patient that the bladder stones need to be removed surgically following the diagnostic tests.
When bladder stones need to be removed, two procedures may be used. The first is to use a laser or an ultrasound device to break the stone apart. This is done with the guidance of a camera, which is also inserted into the area. The smaller pieces are then flushed.
A second option is to have the stones surgically removed. This is the case when they are too big for the previous method to work.
The best method for preventing bladder stones would be to drink adequate amounts of fluid, with an emphasis on water. This helps to provide a dilution for mineral concentrations that may be present in the bladder, reducing the risk of crystallization.
Having regular checkups with a doctor can also help to detect an enlarged prostate early on. Consulting with a physician about the development of urinary symptoms can ensure early diagnosis of bladder stones, as well as underlying issues.
Bladder stones can cause several unpleasant symptoms in men and may lead to infections and other potential complications.
While bladder stones can sometimes pass on its own without medical intervention, men should be wary of the fact that these stones can sometimes become too large. In these cases, medical treatment may be needed.
Recognizing the symptoms and obtaining a diagnosis from a physician can help to reduce the risk of complications and ensure treatment is provided at an early stage.