Kidney stones are renal calculi made from small crystals. Kidney stones can exist in the kidney, or anywhere in between the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. An individual can have many kidney stones existing at one time, or just one; when kidney stones get stuck in tight places, you feel tremendous pain.
What causes kidney stones?
When urine contains too much of certain substances, the body can form crystals of sediment which can turn into renal calculi, otherwise known as kidney stones. Dehydration is a major cause of kidney stones.
Kidney stones don’t generate symptoms until they start moving towards the ureters by which urine drains into the bladder. As soon as a kidney stone becomes lodged into one of the ureters, the flow of urine can become blocked. Kidney stones, lodged in the ureters or the urethra can cause swelling; the pain is usually severe. Swelling can also occur in the kidneys, and the pain may also generate from the kidneys as well as the place where the renal calculi are lodged.
Kidney stones are quite common. A person, having a history of developing kidney stones in the past, is likely to have them in the future. Kidney stones can happen to anyone; they are most common in adults, but kidney stones occur fairly often in premature infants.
Some types of kidney stones are common in families. Some types of kidney stones can occur with certain types of bowel diseases and also in people who have had ileal bypass surgery intended to treat obesity, and in people with renal tubule imperfections.
Types of kidney stones
There are several types of kidney stones. The exact cause of kidney stones depends on their types.
Calcium kidney stones – Calcium kidney stones are the most familiar. They occur more frequently in men than women. Calcium kidney stones occur in people who are between 20 and 30 years of age; individuals usually have recurrent kidney stones.
Calcium can bond with other materials like oxalate, phosphate, or carbonate to form kidney stones. Oxalate is found in many of the foods we eat. Infections of the small intestine increase one’s risk to develop calcium oxalate stones.
Cystine kidney stones – Cystine kidney stones can occur in people having cystinuria (a genetic defect affecting the kidney tubules). This type of kidney stone occurs in families; this form of renal calculi impacts men and women equally.
Struvite kidney stones – Struvite kidney stones are generally found in women having a bacteria urinary tract infection. These stones can become very large; they can cause a blockage in the kidney, ureters, and urethra.
Uric acid kidney stones – Uric acid kidney stones can occur in people who have gout or taking chemotherapy. Uric acid kidney stones occur more commonly in men than women.
What are the symptoms of kidney stones?
The most common symptom of a kidney stone is relentless pain which starts suddenly; the pain may come and go depending on where the stone is, how large it is. The pain may suddenly go away when the kidney stone is collected into the bladder or passed through the body. The pain of a kidney stone can be felt in the back and side area, and the pain may also spread to the testicles and groin area.
Other symptoms of kidney stones may include blood in the urine, abnormal color of the urine, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills.
How are kidney stones diagnosed?
The following tests should be done to diagnose kidney stones:
Uric acid level check
Urinalysis to check for red blood cells and mineral crystals
CT scan of the abdomen can spot kidney stones
KUB (Kidney Ureters and Bladder) X-ray
MRI of the abdomen and kidney area
Retrograde pyelogram – a special type of X-ray done with a cystoscopy
Intravenous pyelogram – a contrast medium is injected into the veins and an X-ray is taken
Treatment for kidney stones
The treatment for kidney stones depends on the type of stone and the severity of the patient’s symptoms. People having severe symptoms may need to be hospitalized.
People with kidney stones are encouraged to drink a minimum of 6 to 8 glasses of water daily to generate enough urine to pass the kidney stones. Some people may need IV fluids to help hydrate them; IV fluids are necessary when a person is suffering from nausea and vomiting. Nausea medicine may be given through an IV or through an injection to treat nausea and vomiting.
Analgesics (pain killers) can help to control the pain associated with passing kidney stones. In some cases, narcotics may be necessary to treat severe pain; for moderate pain, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen may be taken for relief of pain.
Other medications include allopurinol (treats gout and prevents kidney stones), diuretics, antibiotics and phosphate solutions (changes the pH of the urine). Surgery is generally required if stone is growing or stone is too big.
People with kidney stones should drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water every day. It is important to be seen by your physician, if you have kidney stones. The type of kidney stones you have should be identified, so they can be treated properly. Your doctor may advise you to make dietary changes, because some chemicals in food can promote the formation of kidney stones.