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What Is Urolithiasis?

An enlarged prostate may be a contributing factor to urolithiasis.
A urinalysis is often used to help diagnose urolithiasis.
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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2014
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Urolithiasis is another term for bladder stones. These tiny masses form in the bladder and are comprised of minerals. Typically, urolithiasis form as a result of concentrated urine. When the urine is concentrated, the minerals commonly crystallize. Urinary tract infections, inadequate fluid intake or an enlarged prostate may contribute to concentrated urine and bladder stone formation. Sometimes, urolithiasis do not cause symptoms, and are only discovered incidentally, or during medical procedures for other conditions.

Often, bladder stones will pass through the urinary tract without treatment. Sometimes, however, they may need to be removed via medical intervention. If bladder stones are untreated and do not pass on their own, they may contribute to complications such as kidney infection. Although some patients with large bladder stones may not exhibit any symptoms, other patients with tiny stones may experience excruciating pain.

Typically, symptoms of urolithiasis include pain in the lower abdomen, pain or burning upon urination, and frequent urination. In addition, hematuria, or blood in the urine, and dark colored urine may be present. Sometimes urinary leakage or incontinence and difficulty with urination may also be a symptom. Frequently, if infection is present because of the stones, fever, chills and nausea may accompany urolithiasis.

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Risk factors for urolithiasis may include advancing age, although pediatric urolithiasis is not uncommon. Other factors include being male and having a history of frequent bladder infections. In addition, patients who require the use of an indwelling catheter may also be at risk for bladder stones. Occasionally, foreign objects that have traveled to the bladder, such as contraceptives or certain stents may contribute to the formation of bladder stones. Sometimes, crystals—which can progress to stones—may form on the exterior of these objects or devices.

Generally, diagnosis for urolithiasis include the use of urinalysis and medical imaging tests. Frequently, cystoscopy, which employs the use of a tiny camera to examine the bladder, is recommended so the physician can examine the urinary tract and determine if bladder stones are present. Another frequently used medical test to determine the presence of bladder stones is the ultrasound. Ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of organs and body structures on a monitor. This procedure is safe, as no ionizing radiation is emitted.

Frequently, urolithiasis treatment includes the recommendation to increase water intake. Drinking increased fluids may assist the stone to pass through the urinary system. If an increase in fluid intake is unsuccessful, the physician may utilize as cystoscope to view the urinary tract. While viewing the urinary system with the cystoscope, the physician may then break up the stones via laser or ultrasound.

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