Kidney stones can occur to anyone, irrespective of age and gender. Nowadays even children are found to have kidney stones. It is reported that 12 out of every 100 men and 7 out of every 100 women are diagnosed with kidney stones in the USA. Kidney stones has become common problem worldwide affecting millions of people.
Whether Kidney Stones Formation Is A Matter Of Concern ?
Stones are nothing but hard deposits of salts and minerals and can form in any part of the body. Often it targets the kidneys wherein leftover minerals and salts present in the urine gets concentrated forming a crystal which would then join together to form a stone. Passing urine becomes painful act and a person with kidney stones would pass reduced volume of urine.
There are many kinds of kidney stones like uric acid stones, calcium stones, magnesium ammonium stones and mixed stones.
Uric Acid Stones :
Uric acid stones may contain cystine stones, calcium stones and struvite stones. Few particles of calcium and other minerals fuse to form hard mass or stone. Uric acid is a type of acid present normally in the urine and when there is high concentration of acidity in the urine it can lead to formation of uric acid stones.
Uric acid stones can form in the kidneys or urinary tract (a small tube that carries urine from the kidneys and sends it to urethra). Formation of these stones can be acute (short lived) or chronic (continuous) problem. Kidney stone is known as renal calculus in medical terms and when few crystals or stones can accumulate to form a big mass blocking the urine passage. Presence of kidney stones is known as nephrolithiasis. Often small sized uric acid stones are discharged through urine and only some of them get crystallized to form a stone.
Uric acid stone can be of any size ranging from very small to large ones. Stones that are lesser than 2-4mm in size would get expelled through urine but those which are bigger than 5mm in size can obstruct the path of urine. Very large sized stones like 7-9mm can cause complications requiring treatment.
Symptoms Of Kidney Stones :
Not all the kidney stones would cause symptoms since they go unnoticed in urine. At some point uric acid stones get accumulated and moves within the kidney and slowly travels into the ureter tubing. Only then you will notice some of the below mentioned symptoms.
- Mild to moderate pain at your back and in the sides
- Sudden severe pain that proceeds towards the right lower abdomen region
- Pain can be felt in the form of waves or ripples and intensity of pain may differ
- Urine color can change from normalcy to red or brown
- Burning pain while passing urine
- Urine would be foul smelling
- Some people may feel like vomiting
- Sudden urge to pass urine
- Increased number of visits to toilet
- Passing lesser amounts of urine than normal
- Fever may develop if the person develops urinary infection
Kidney Stones Causes :
Not one single factor causes kidney stone formation. Many factors can contribute for the crystallization of calcium deposits in the urine.
Urine is composed of several minerals including that of calcium and oxalate and when the number of crystal like particles exceeds that of fluid particles kidney stones are formed. Normally urine contains substances to check the crystals but due to unfavorable conditions several tiny crystals stick together to form kidney stone.
1. Not Drinking Water
A healthy adult should take at least 2 liters or 8 ounce of water each day. If you are not drinking enough water you are at risk to form kidney stones. Many times you may forget to drink water due to workload or stress and if you are living in cold climatic zone you may avoid drinking water. People living in warm zones should drink more than 2 liters of water daily to prevent dehydration.
2. Family History
People with family history of kidney stones have increased risk to get uric acid stones. And people who have had kidney stones already in life are more likely to get it again than others.
3. High Protein Diet
You are at increased risk of kidney stones if you are including high protein diet with high oxalates like beef, pork, chicken, shellfish and organ meats. It is wise to reduce the quantity of animal protein if you are fond of eating it. Diet rich in protein but low in oxalate like dried beans, lentils and plant based foods are recommended. And eating high sodium diet can damage your kidneys causing kidney stones.
4. Increased Weight
People who are overweight and obese are more likely to develop uric acid stones than others.
5. Certain Diseases
People with chronic problems like Inflammatory Bowel Disease or Crohn’s disease or chronic diarrhea and those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery are at increased risk of kidney stone. Certain kinds of digestive disorders can change the level of absorption of calcium in urine leading to the formation of stones.
Using certain drugs like acetazolamide and furosemide which are loop diuretics and some kinds of antacids, and theophylline and dexamethasone can lead to the formation of kidney stones. Certain medical conditions like cystinuria, renal tubular acidosis and hyperparathyroidism can also cause kidney stones.
7. Increased Uric Acid
If your body produces excess of uric acid due to over-consumption of high purine foods you are likely to develop kidney stones. In case the kidney tissue fails to re-absorb uric acid properly owing to some disease it can increase kidney stone formation.
People who are undergoing radiation or chemo for cancer are likely to develop kidney stones.
Based on the symptoms your doctor may request for complete blood test and urine analysis to measure the levels of uric acid and calcium. Urine test can be done for two days consecutively to find out whether it contains excess of minerals that forms stones. Further he may order for imaging tests like CT scan or intravenous urography to get clear idea.
Kidney Stones Treatment :
No treatment is needed if you are diagnosed with minimal stones and few symptoms. It is enough if you drink more water and use pain relievers like Tylenol, Advil or similar drugs to get relief from pain. Reduce the sodium intake in daily food and balance the protein diet. If necessary your doctor would prescribe alpha blocker drugs for relaxing the ureter muscles so that crystals can easily pass through the urine.
For people who are diagnosed with large sized kidney stones the above treatment method cannot be a remedy.
- Sound Waves
Controlled sound waves are created and passed through your back area to produce strong vibrations. This procedure is known as ESWL or extra corporeal shock wave therapy which is capable of breaking the stones into tiny pieces that can be expelled through urine. The entire process takes about an hour and the patient would be given light anesthesia to tolerate the pain. This procedure can cause small bruises on your back and it may cause blood leakage in urine.
This is the last option for removing large kidney stones. A small incision is make on your back (under complete anesthesia) through which a tube with mini telescope is sent in for removing kidney stones. The patient will be monitored closely until he/she recovers completely from the surgery.
Under this procedure, small lighted tubing is sent though the urethra (through which you pass urine) and small sized stones can be removed. It can cause pain and discomfort and to tolerate this pain, the patient will be given general anesthesia.
- Excess Of Parathyroid
Parathyroid gland surgery is done for people who are diagnosed to have excess of thyroid secretion causing kidney stone formation. This chemical can drastically increase the levels of calcium causing stones.
Tips For Kidney Stones Prevention :
- Drink more water and check the urine color is clear. Instead of drinking more water at a stretch, spread it throughout the day.
- Reduce the quantity of red meat you eat and use dairy products once a week.
- Take plenty of fresh fruits and veggies
- If you are obese practice workouts to reduce your weight
- Reduce the intake of beets, spinach, sweet potatoes, nuts, chocolates and rhubarb that are rich in oxalates, if you are diagnosed with kidney stones.
- Eat healthy diet and do regular exercises.