Kidney Stones – Overview
Kidney stones also known as renal calculi, nephrolithiasis or urolithiasis, are the hard deposits which are made of minerals and salt that can be formed inside the kidneys.
The causes of developing kidney stones may include diet, excess body weight, some medical conditions, and certain supplements and medications. Any part of urinary tract can be affected by kidney stones, going from kidneys to bladder. Stones are often formed when the urine becomes concentrated, allowing minerals to crystallize and stick together.
It can be quite painful when passing kidney stones, but the stones usually cause no permanent damage if recognized in a timely fashion. Depending on the scenario, nothing may need to be done more than to take pain medication and drink lots of water to pass a kidney stone. In other circumstances for example, if stones become lodged in the urinary tract, they are associated with a urinary infection or cause complications and surgery may be needed.
Doctor may suggest preventive treatment to decrease the risk of kidney stones to recur if you’re at increased risk of developing them again.
Symptoms may not be caused usually in kidney stones until it moves around within the kidney or passes into the ureters which is the tubes connecting the kidneys and the bladder. If it enters in the ureters, it may block the urine flow and can cause the kidney to swell and the ureter to spasm, which can be very painful. At that point, below signs and symptoms may be experienced:
- Severe, sharp pain in the side and back, below the ribs
- Pain that is radiating to the lower abdomen and groin
- Pain that is coming in waves and fluctuating in intensity
- Pain or burning sensation while urinating
Other signs and symptoms may be experienced:
- Pink, red or brown urine
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
- A persistent need to urinate, urinating more often than usual or urinating in small amounts
- Nausea and vomiting
- If infection present, then fever and chills
For instance, pain which is caused by a kidney stone may change, shifting to a different location or increasing in intensity as the stone moving through the urinary tract.
When to see a doctor
If having any signs and symptoms that are worrisome, an appointment should be made with the doctor.
Immediate medical attention should be sought if experiencing:
- Pain that is so severe that sitting still cannot be done or a comfortable position should be found
- Pain accompanied by nausea and vomiting
- Pain accompanied by fever and chills
- Blood in urine
- Difficulty in passing urine
Although many factors may increase the risk but kidney stones often have no definite, single cause,
When the urine contains more crystal-forming substances kidney stones may form such as calcium, oxalate and uric acid than the fluid can dilute in the urine. The urine may lack substances at the same time that prevent crystals from sticking together, therefore creating an ideal environment for kidney stones to form.
Types of kidney stones
Knowing the form of kidney stone the candidate is having helps in determining its cause, and may give clues on how to decrease the risk of developing more kidney stones. If possible, try to save the kidney stone when it is passed so that it can be brought to the doctor for analysis.
Kidney stones types may include:
- Most of the kidney stones are calcium stones, usually which are in the form of calcium oxalate. A substance made daily by the liver or absorbed from the diet is known as oxalate. High oxalate content may be present in certain fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts and chocolate.
Certain factors can increase the concentration calcium or oxalate in urine. Factors such as dietary, high doses of vitamin D, intestinal bypass surgery and several metabolic disorders
Calcium phosphate is a form in which calcium stones may also occur. This form of stone is more common in metabolic conditions, such as renal tubular acidosis. It may also be affiliated with certain medications which are used in treating migraines or seizures, such as topiramate (Topamax, Trokendi XR, Qudexy XR).
- In response to a urinary tract infection struvite stones may form. Sometimes with few symptoms or little warning these stones can develop quickly and become quite large.
- Uric acid stones can be formed in people who are losing too much fluid because of chronic diarrhea or malabsorption, those who are eating a high-protein diet, and those who are having diabetes or metabolic syndrome. Increase in risk of uric acid stones may also be due to some generic factors.
- Cystine stones are formed in people who are having a hereditary disorder called cystinuria which causes the kidneys to excrete certain amino acid too much
Risk factors that increase the development of kidney stones may include:
- The candidate may develop kidney stones if someone in the family has had a history of kidney stones, too. There is increased risk of developing another kidney stone if one or more kidney stones have been treated in the past.
- Not drinking enough water each day, i.e. dehydration can increase the risk of kidney stones. Risk can be higher than others for people who live in warm, dry climates and those who sweat a lot
- Eating certain diets that is high in protein, sodium (salt) and sugar may increase the risk of some form of kidney stones. This is especially accurate when the diet is high-sodium. The amount of calcium kidneys must filter which can be because of too much salt in the diet increases the risk of kidney stones significantly
- High body mass index (BMI) or obesity which is large waist size and weight gain have been correlated to an increased risk of kidney stones.
- Digestive diseases and surgeries if had in the past such as gastric bypass surgery, inflammatory bowel disease or chronic diarrhea can cause changes in the digestive process that can affect the absorption of calcium and water, therefore increasing the amounts of stone-forming substances in the urine.
- Other medical conditions can also increase risk of having kidney stones such as renal tubular acidosis, cystinuria, hyperparathyroidism and repeated urinary tract infections
- Certain supplements and medications intake, such as vitamin C, dietary supplements, laxatives (when used excessively), calcium-based antacids, and certain medications used to treat migraines or depression, can increase the risk of kidney stones.