Kidney Stones – Everything you need to know about

Kidney Stones

Kidney stones – also known as Renal Calculi or Urolithiasis – are solid crystals or hard mineral deposits that cause the blockage of any part of the urinary tract like ureters, bladder, urethra, and kidneys. Kidney stones usually form when concentrated urine is formed. It causes the crystallization of minerals or salts. They stick together and cause blockage of the urinary tract.

What are the types of kidney stones?

Kidney stones are made from different types of mineral deposition. The different types of stones include:

Calcium

The most common type of kidney stone is calcium stones, usually calcium oxalate. These stones are made due to eating oxalate-rich foods. One can reduce the risk of developing calcium oxalate stones by avoiding oxalate-rich foods like peanuts, chocolate, potato chips, and spinach.

Certain dietary elements and a high intake of vitamin D can increase the concentration of calcium oxalate in urine. Few calcium stones are due to calcium phosphate – mostly associated with a particular type of medication.

Uric acid stones

Uric acid stones are due to some genetic factors and metabolic syndromes. It is more common in men than women. These stones usually develop in those people who lose more fluids from their intestines due to diarrhea or some other digestive tract problem.

People who eat a high protein diet (mostly animal protein) or diabetic patients are at greater risk of developing uric acid stones.

Struvite stones

These stones are less noticeable first. They gradually grow and become bigger in size. These stones occur due to some urinary tract infection. These stones are common in women than men. Struvite stones can cause the blockage of the urinary tract and cause the infection of kidneys.

Cystine stones

These stones are rare and occur due to a genetic disorder called cystinuria. Cystine is a natural acid formed in the body. This acid starts to leak from the kidneys. With this type of stone – kidneys excrete too many amino acids.

Symptoms of kidney stones

Symptoms of kidney stones remain unnoticeable until stones move down the ureters. Ureters are the part of the urinary tract that connects the kidneys with the bladder. The stone can cause the blockage of the ureters. It causes extreme pain. It is called renal colic. It may result in swelling of the kidneys as well. At this stage, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Severe pain that comes in waves at one side of your back
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • A burning sensation while urinating
  • Dark-colored and smelly urine
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Blood in urine

In case of extreme pain or blood in urine, you need to immediately see your doctor. 

Treatment of kidney stones

Kidney stones are treated according to their types. Urine samples are taken to identify the type of stones. In case of mild symptoms or small stones, drinking more than 2 liters of water will be enough to dilute the urine. It will prevent the stones from forming.

Your doctor may prescribe you pain killers to relieve the pain while passing down stones through urine.

In some cases, your doctor will give you an alpha-blocker – a type of medication that helps to relax the muscles and pass the stones easily without causing any pain.

Other treatment options

Other treatment options available for large kidney stones involve:

Lithotripsy

Here sound waves are used to break down the large kidney stones. It makes small pieces of stones that can easily pass through the tract. This process is painful and can cause bruises on the abdomen so, a patient will be anesthetized.

Surgery

Sometimes a person develops an infection of kidneys or large stones that are unable to pass down the ureters. In this case, pain is unbearable, and the stones are removed by making a small incision in the abdomen. This process is called tunnel surgery.

Ureteroscopy 

Sometimes, a stone gets stuck in the urinary tract. Here an instrument called a ureteroscope is used to remove this stone. The tip has a camera, and it is inserted through your urethra and bladder to the ureters.

After locating the stone, it is broken down into pieces. Your doctor will place a stent in your ureters to promote the healing process.

How to prevent kidney stones?

Drinking enough amount of water is key to avoid kidney stones. Drinking 2-3 liters of water is sufficient to dilute the urine.

Also Read: How much water should you drink in a day?

If your urine is light-colored and clear, you are likely drinking enough water.

Reducing intake of salt and oxalate-rich foods like beet, nuts, tea, chocolate, okra, and spinach will also lower the chances of developing kidney stones.

Choose non-animal protein foods like legumes.

Choose a diet that is rich in calcium as it will reduce the chances of developing kidney stones. Avoid calcium supplements. Always consult your doctor before choosing the supplements as these are linked with the formation of kidney stones. 

If you have any symptoms of kidney stones, talk to your doctor to get the best preventive method for stones. 

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