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Bladder stones

Bladder stones (or calculi) develop when urine remains in your bladder over time, and the chemicals start to form crystals. Find out why they happen and how they can be prevented.

Bladder stone symptoms

Bladder stones tend to mostly affect men over the age of 50 as they are linked to prostate enlargement (the prostate is a small gland located between the penis and bladder and prostate enlargement is when the gland is bigger than usual). But women can also get bladder stones.

Common bladder stone symptoms are:

  • Lower abdominal pain

  • Difficulty or pain when peeing

  • Peeing more often (especially at night)

  • Urine that is cloudy or dark coloured

  • Blood in your urine

What causes bladder stones?

If you can’t completely empty your bladder, over time bladder stones can form from the chemicals left behind.

There are several causes of bladder stones:

  • Prostate enlargement - The main cause in men as an enlarged prostate blocks the flow of urine from the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body).

  • Damage to the nerves in the bladder (called neurogenic bladder) - Due to a spinal injury or conditions such as motor neurone disease or spina bifida, which affect the nervous system.

  • Cystocele - This happens in women when the weakened wall of the bladder drops down into the vagina because of childbirth, heavy lifting, or severe constipation restricting the flow of urine out of the bladder.

  • Bladder diverticula - These are pouches that can develop over time in the bladder wall as a complication of infection. If they become too big, they can make it hard to empty your bladder fully.

  • Diet - Although it’s unusual in the UK, bladder stones can be caused by a diet high in salt, sugar and fat and low in vitamins B and A.

Reducing your risk of bladder stones

Making specific changes to your lifestyle may prevent bladder stones from forming and coming back:

  • Drinking 2-3 litres of fluid a day to make your urine less concentrated

  • Emptying your bladder as soon as you feel the urge to pee

  • If you’re unable to empty your bladder the first time, trying again after 10 to 20 seconds

  • Avoiding constipation by ensuring you have plenty of fibre in your diet

Bladder stones treatment

The treatment you have will depend on how severe your bladder stones are. Treatment options may include:

  • Drinking lots of water - To help flush out small bladder stones in your bladder.

  • Cystolitholapaxy surgery - A thin tube called a cystoscope is passed into the bladder to allow a laser or ultrasound to break up any larger stones before they are flushed out of your system.

  • Percutaneous suprapubic cystolitholapaxy surgery - Used to treat children, a small cut is made in the lower abdomen and bladder to remove the stones under general anaesthetic.

  • Open cystostomy surgery – This removes bladder stones in men with an enlarged prostate, where a large cut is made in the lower abdomen and bladder.

After bladder stones surgery, you may need to have a follow-up X-ray or CT scan to check all the fragments have been removed completely from your bladder.

Once your bladder stones have been removed, you may also need treatment to deal with what caused the stones to develop in the first place. The doctor will discuss these treatment options with you to give you the best possible chance of a full recovery.

Complications of bladder stones

A urinary tract infection or UTI is an infection of the urethra or bladder and is a common complication of bladder stone surgery that can be treated with antibiotics.

Reviewed by:

Dr Rhianna McClymont

Lead GP at Livi

Last updated: