What are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones can be as small as a grain of salt or as large as a bean. Their main cause is dehydration, but other things such as genetics, race, diet, and certain medications can also contribute to the risk.
Kidney stones are crystallized deposits that develop from minerals in the urine. the shape and size of the stone varies but could be seen almost anywhere in the urinary tract. Some of the most common places for kidney stones to form include the kidneys, ureter, bladder, and urethra.
Kidney Stones are very painful conditions. The larger stones can cause such severe pain that it affects your ability to perform daily activities. They also have a tremendous impact on your quality of life because they cause very painful symptoms.
Who gets Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones affect people of all ages, but they are more common in men than women and most common in adults between the ages of 30 and 50. They are also more common in people who have had a kidney stone before.
The majority of kidney stones are calcium based, but they can also be uric acid or cystine. In fact, 1 in 10 men and 1 in 20 women will develop a kidney stone over their lifetime. Additionally, 1 in 5 men and 1 in 8 women will develop another one.
In the United States alone, there are 3.2 million people who have had a kidney stone. Men and women are equally likely to develop a kidney stone.
Causes and Risk Factor
They are generally formed when there is an excess of certain chemicals in the urine. The three main factors that increase the formation of kidney stones are, dehydration, poor diet, and lack of exercise. There are several known causes of kidney stones:
- The most general cause of kidney stones is because of dehydration. It’s crucial to stay well hydrated, especially if you are on a low-calorie diet. Kidney stones are a bladder abnormality that is often caused by a diet rich in protein. However, the real cause of kidney stones is not the high-protein diet but the lack of water intake.
- Another important factor is the amount of salt you consume. Kidney stones are more likely to form if your sodium intake is high.
- Genetic Predisposition– If you have a family history of kidney stones, you may want to consult with your doctor about taking supplements that can help prevent them. Magnesium is one supplement that has been shown to reduce the risk of developing stones.
- Diet and lifestyle– Drinking lots of soda, alcohol, or coffee can increase your risk of building stones.
- Menstrual patterns can also affect your risk. Women who undergo irregular menstrual cycles run a higher risk of developing stones in ureter and urethra.
- Medications– Some medications can increase the risk of you developing kidney stones in your body.
Symptoms of Kidney stones
The kidney is a vital part of the body. It filters blood, removes wastes, and balances body fluids. The urine produced at the end of this process leaves the body through the urethra exit. Kidney stones form when small crystals in urine stick together and gradually grow larger to form a stone.
The symptoms of kidney stones depend on their size, location, and composition. If a stone is large enough it can cause severe pain when it moves within the kidney or travels down to the ureter (the tube connecting the kidney to the bladder).
The kidney stone symptoms are usually very painful and it is very difficult to identify them in the initial stages. The most common symptoms include intense pain in the flank and lower abdomen, frequent urination, blood in urine, nausea, and vomiting, and pain while passing urine. It feels like a knife is stabbed in the back.
A large number of people with kidney stone conditions never consult their physician during the early phase of their disease. It can be very painful and even life-threatening. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is important to see a doctor immediately.
Different types of Kidney Stones
There are seven types of kidney stones that can be formed:
- Calcium oxalate (75%),
- Uric acid (11%),
- Struvite (8%),
- Cystine (4%),
- Brushite (<1%),
- Xanthine (<1%)
- Unknown type (<1%).
Calcium oxalate stones are by far the most commonly found. The minerals in them form tiny crystals in the urine. These crystals can form stones if they are not dissolved by the body.
Treatment of Kidney stones
The treatments for kidney stones usually include painkillers, anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics, and also lifestyle changes. Some people may also be advised to undergo surgery to remove the stone. In rare cases, a person may need to undergo shock wave lithotripsy. This is a procedure that uses shock waves to break up the stones.
The treatment of kidney stones depends on the type of stone, its size, and location in the urinary tract. If you are suffering from kidney stones, you should consult your doctor.
The doctor may advise you to go for a urine test, blood test, or CT scan. With the help of the reports, the doctor can conclude the size of the stone and its location. If it is identified that the stone is small, the doctor may ask you to drink plenty of water that will push the kidney stone from its location towards the urinary tract which can come out along with urine.
However, if the doctor identifies the stone as bigger, some additional treatment may be required.
One of the treatments for bigger stones is Lithotripsy. Lithotripsy is a way to break stones into small pieces with the help of shocks. This procedure takes around 1 hour and is less painful. This treatment requires local anesthesia, which means you will be numbed in that part of your body for 1-2 hours. Once the treatment is finished, the doctor may advise you to consume some painkillers.
Another treatment option is ureteroscopy. Ureteroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure used to remove kidney stones from the ureter. Ureteroscopy is performed by inserting a small scope into the urethra. The scope then travels up to the bladder and into the ureter, where it can identify and remove any obstructions. If you are experiencing pain caused by a kidney stone in your ureter, contact your doctor to see if ureteroscopy is an option for you.
In rare cases, a surgery called percutaneous nephrolithotomy is needed to remove a stone. Percutaneous nephrolithotomy is a surgical technique used to remove kidney stones without having to open the patient’s abdomen. The procedure involves inserting a needle into the kidney to remove the stone.
The surgeon makes a small incision in the groin area and inserts a needle just below the skin toward the kidney. The percutaneous nephrolithotomy is done using general or local anesthesia. For this procedure, no incision is made in the abdomen.
The surgeon places a small scope called a cystoscope through an incision near the groin into the kidney. A cystoscope is a thin, lighted tube that has a lens for viewing and a channel through which instruments can be passed. The surgeon passes instruments through the cystoscope to remove the stone.
How to prevent Kidney stones
The first thing you need to know is that the absolute best way to prevent stones from forming in your future is to drink enough water. As long as you are drinking enough water, eating a healthy diet, and getting plenty of exercise, your chances of developing kidney stones are extremely low.
So, how much water do I need? The National Academy of Sciences recommends that women should have about 91 ounces and men should have about 125 ounces per day. This includes water from all sources such as beverages, soups, etc. Water is very important in preventing kidney stones so make sure you are staying hydrated. But Overhydration can lead to a plethora of health problems.
Another way to prevent stones is by limiting the quantity of sodium and animal protein like eggs, meat, etc in your diet.
Kidney stones are painful and sometimes make people too sick to do anything. They happen when there is something in the kidney that shouldn’t be there, which can be a lot of things like salt or calcium. If you have kidney stones or know someone who does, this article should help answer some of your questions about the different types of kidney stones, symptoms of kidney stones, treatments for kidney stone and pain relief, and ways to prevent them from happening again in the future. What type of symptoms do you face? please let us know in the comment section.