Kidney stones are the result of a buildup of dissolved minerals on the inner lining of the kidneys. They usually consist of calcium oxalate but may be composed of several other compounds. Kidney stones can grow to the size of a golf ball while maintaining a sharp, crystalline structure.
The stones may be small and pass unnoticed through the urinary tract, but they can also cause extreme pain as they leave the body.
What Causes Kidney Stones
They vary in sizes, some have are known to grow as large as golf balls. The leading cause is lack of water in the body. Stones are more commonly found in individuals who drink less than the recommended eight to ten glasses of water a day.
When there is not enough water to dilute the uric acid, a component of urine, the urine becomes more acidic. An excessively acidic environment in urine can lead to the formation of kidney stones. Medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease, urinary tract infections, renal tubular acidosis, hyperparathyroidism, medullary sponge kidney, and Dent’s disease increase the risk of kidney stones.
Kidney stones are more common among males than females. Most people who experience kidney stones do so between the ages of 30 and 50 years. A family history of kidney stones also increases one’s chances of developing them. Similarly, a previous kidney stone occurrence increases the risk that a person will develop subsequent stones in the future if preventative action is not taken.
Certain medications can increase the risk of developing kidney stones. Scientists found that topiramate (Topamax), a drug commonly prescribed to treat seizures and migraine headaches, can increase the likelihood. It is possible that long-term use of vitamin D and calcium supplements cause high calcium levels, which can contribute to kidney stones.
Additional risk factors for kidney stones include diets that are high in protein and sodium but low in calcium, a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, high blood pressure, and conditions that affect how calcium is absorbed in the body such as gastric bypass surgery, inflammatory bowel disease, and chronic diarrhea.
Symptoms are less until it moves into the ureter, when apparent, they may include;
- Severe pain in the groin and/or side
- Blood in urine
- Vomiting and nausea
- White blood cells or pus in the urine
- Reduced amount of urine excreted
- Burning sensation during urination
- Persistent urge to urinate
- Fever and chills if there is an infection
How Kidney Stones are Treated
Treatment is primarily focused on symptom management. If a person has a history of kidney stones, home treatment may be suitable. Individuals who have never passed a kidney stone out through urine should speak with a doctor.
Should hospital treatment be needed, an individual may undergo rehydration via an intravenous (IV) tube, and anti-inflammatory medication may also be administered. Narcotics are often used in an effort to make the pain of passing the stone tolerable. Antiemetic medication can be used in people experiencing nausea and vomiting.
In some cases, a urologist can perform a shock wave therapy called lithotripsy. This is a treatment that breaks the kidney stone into smaller pieces and allow it to pass through the urine.
People with large stones located in regions that do not allow for lithotripsy may receive surgical procedures, such as removal of the stone via an incision in the back or by inserting a thin tube into the urethra.
There are a few steps that can be taken at home to reduce the impact of kidney stones and assist doctors in providing treatment. The first is drinking enough water to make the urine completely clear. A person can tell they are not consuming enough water if their urine is yellow or brown.
A doctor may also request that a kidney stone is passed naturally though urinating. They will then ask that you retrieved a kidney stone from the urine by filtering it through a stocking or gauze. On studying the retrieved stone, they will be able to determine what further treatment is required.
There are several foods that have a positive impact on kidney health. These can help reduce both the risk and impact of kidney stones. The body naturally passes the stone within 48 to 72 hours. Kidney beans are one such option. Boil the pods inside the beans for around six hours, strain the liquid, and allow this liquid to cool. People with kidney stones should consume this liquid every 2 hours over the course of 1 to 2 days. Other foods that can protect the kidneys include basil, celery, apples, grapes, pomegranates, Vitamin B6 supplements and pyroxidine supplements.
Those that remain inside the body can also lead to many complications, including blockage of the the tube connecting the kidney to the bladder, which obstructs the path that urine uses to leave the body. According to research, people with kidney stones have a significantly higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease.
For individuals in good health, preventing kidney stones can be as easy as staying hydrated. You can prevent it from forming in the body by drinking sufficient volumes of water everyday, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and improving your diet choices to reduce the risk factors. Doctors may also prescribe medicines to prevent certain types of stones for individuals who are at higher risk.