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Urolithiasis - Symptoms, Treatment, Causes

Updated on December 30, 2013

What is Urolithiasis?

This is a medical condition in which a person either develops or has urinary stones anywhere in their urinary system. The urinary system consists of your bladder, kidneys, urethra, and ureters. It is another name for bladder stones and is tiny masses that are comprised of minerals. Most cases of urolithiasis are found in people of advance age, especially men, but it is not uncommon to see it in children and women. It is more common to find cases of urolithiasis in underdeveloped countries because of the lack of proper nutritional health, antibiotics, and better diagnosis.

Symptoms

Many times patients with tiny stones may experience pain that is excruciating while others with large stones may not have symptoms at all. Many times the symptoms a person experiences is caused from a predisposing condition that is causing these bladder stones. Some of the typical symptoms that are common with urolithiasis may include:

  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Burning or pain when urinating
  • Frequent urination or having trouble with urination
  • Dark colored urine or blood in the urine could be present
  • There may be urinary leakage
  • Chronic bladder pain

If there is an infection when a person has urolithiasis, they may also experience these symptoms.

  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Chills

Causes

The main cause of urolithiasis is having urine that is concentrated which is when the minerals are usually crystallized. There are many different things that can contribute to concentrated urine, which can include:

  • Inadequate intake of fluids, especially water
  • Having a urinary tract infection
  • Enlarged prostate gland in men
  • Poor nutrition
  • Long term use of urinary catheters
  • Having frequent bladder infections.
  • Having a foreign body travel to your bladder such as contraceptives because the crystals that can turn to stones could form on the exterior of these objects.

Diagnosis

When there is great pain in urination or the urine output has stopped completely it is time to see your physician for a diagnosis of what is causing these problems. The physician will do a physical exam and take your medical history. The physician may also:

  • If possible they may do a urinalysis, which is taking a sample of your urine to see if there is any type of infection.
  • The physician may have an x-ray done in order to visualize the presence of bladder stones.
  • If the physician cannot see them on the x-rays they may have to do a cystoscopy. This is a procedure in which they use a catheter with a tiny camera on it and insert it through your urethra into your bladder to see if there are any stones. Using this same procedure they can see if there is a blockage of your urine stream.
  • The physician may also use an ultrasound, which uses sound waves in order to create images of body structures and organs on a monitor enabling the physician to may be able to determine if there is the presence of bladder stones.

Treatment

Many times these stones that are causing urolithiasis will be small enough to just pass through your urinary tract without requiring any type of treatment. One of the main treatments is to have the patient increase their water intake to help assist the stone to pass through your urinary system if it is small enough. If they are too large to pass comfortably they may need to be removed with medical intervention such as:

  • Inserting certain chemicals in your bladder may help to dissolve the stones so they can pas.
  • By using cystoscopy they can do shock treatments that are directed at the stones to cause them to break up into pieces tiny enough to pass without problems or they are removed by the cystoscope. During this procedure the physician will use either ultrasound or a laser.

They physician will also address any underlying conditions at this time that may be causing the stones to form such as:

  • Treating any urinary tract infections with antibiotics
  • Treating the enlarged prostate gland
  • Replacing the urinary catheters as needed
  • Making dietary changes to help decrease the risk of having certain mineral deposits in your urinary system form

Even with treatment urination can still be painful for several weeks but if it continues to be painful after a few weeks you need to consult with your physician. After having the stones removed the urolithiasis should go away.

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