Hard depositions within the kidneys result in the formation of kidney stones which are also referred to as renal calculi. These stones are made up of acid salts and minerals. The factors and pathophysiological causes of kidney stone are numerous. It is imperative to understand that renal stones may damage any part of the renal as well as the urinary tract. Concentrated urine may also cause the crystallization of minerals, ultimately causing kidney stones. Thankfully they usually don't bring along any permanent damage. However, passing a kidney stone is indeed very painful. Sometimes medicines and plenty of water may help in passing of the stone. In other cases, surgery may be needed. Preventive treatments assist in avoiding the recurrence of the kidney stones.
What Are the Symptoms of Kidney Stones?
Symptoms are not likely to appear until the stone moves around inside the kidney or travels to the ureter. Nonetheless, the most common symptoms that are associated with kidney stones include:
- Excessive pain in the ribs, back and sides
- Pain while urinating
- Waves of pain with fluctuating intensity
- Pain which spreads all the way to the lower abdomen and groin
- Frequent urination
- Continuous urge to empty the bladder at intervals
- Awful-smelling or cloudy urine
- Vomiting and nausea
- Chills and fever (in case of any infection)
- Appearance of varying degrees of blood (pink, red or brownish urine)
Consult your doctor immediately if you experience any of the above symptoms. And in case you observe blood in urine or have difficulty in urinating, seek medical assistance right away.
What Are the Causes and Risk Factors of Kidney Stones?
Although some factors can increase your risk, kidney stones often have no single cause or definite cause. Kidney stones form when the urine becomes saturated with crystal-forming substances and also lacks substances that can prevent the sticking of crystals, creating an environment that favors the formation of kidney stones.
- Calcium stones are the commonest types of kidney stones, in the form of calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate. High intake of vitamin D, dietary factors, metabolic disorders or intestinal bypass surgery can increase the formation of calcium stones.
- Struvite stones can be caused by an infection, such as a urinary tract infection.
- Uric acid stones can form if people don't drink enough fluids, lose too much fluids or eat a high-protein diet. Certain diseases like gout or genetic factors may also increase the risk.
- Cystine stones are caused by a hereditary disorder.
Risk Factors of Kidney Stones
Listed below are the risk factors associated with the kidney stones:
- Gender: mostly males are at greater risk of developing stones, but the incidence in females is also inclining
- Having a personal or family history of kidney stones
- Intake of high-protein, glucose or salt-containing foods
- IBS or inflammatory bowel disorder (which causes elevated calcium absorption)
- Some other medical conditions like hyperparathyroidism (which may elevate the chances of phosphorus and calcium absorption) and renal tubular acidosis
- Ostomy surgery, advanced obesity, gastric bypass surgery or intestinal bypass procedures
- Certain kinds of medications like some diuretics, protein inhibitor (such as indinavir) and antacids containing calcium
Are There Any Tests for Kidney Stones?
The tests that may be done include:
- Blood test
- Kidney function test
- Urinalysis to detect RBCs or crystals in urine
- Examination of stones
Blockage can be seen on:
- Retrograde pyelogram
- Intravenous pyelogram
- Kidney ultrasound
- Abdominal CT scan, X-rays, MRI
- Kidney MRI
What Are the Treatments for Kidney Stones?
Treatments vary depending on the severity of the stones.
1. For Small Stones with Less Severe Symptoms
Non-invasive treatments include:
- Drinking water: Try drinking 1.9-2.8 L of water every day. It will assist in flushing the urinary system and help in the production of nearly clear urine.
- Pain alleviators: Mild pain during passing of a stone can be alleviated by acetaminophen, naproxen sodium and ibuprofen.
- Medical therapy: You may be prescribed an alpha blocker that will relax the ureter muscles and help in passing the kidney stone less painfully.
2. For Large Stones with More Severe Symptoms
Invasive treatments are necessary where the non-invasive fails. Following are the procedures that may be employed.
- Sound waves: Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy or SWL utilizes sound waves to create strong vibrations to split the stones into small pieces which can pass in the urine. Anesthesia is given to overcome the moderate pain during this procedure of 45-60 minutes. Side effects include bloody urine, bruised abdomen or back and discomfort.
- Surgery: Percutaneous nephrolithotomy is a surgical procedure that removes kidney stones with the help of small instruments and telescopes inserted in the back though an incision. Recovery may take 1-2 days. This is a choice in case SWL fails or the stone is too large.
- Scope: Ureteroscope is a lighted tube. This device contains a camera. After the stone is located, it is broken into tiny bits with special tools, and then passed through urine. Doctor may insert a stent (small tube) to alleviate swelling and speed the recovery. Local or general anesthesia is also given.
- Surgery of parathyroid gland: Overactive parathyroid glands may sometimes be the causative agents of kidney stones. Hyperthyroidism may also occur due to a benign tumor in the parathyroid glands. So kidney stones can be dealt with by removing the extra growth from this gland. Sometimes treating the underlying cause also helps.
What Can I Do to Prevent Kidney Stones?
After you become well informed regarding the type of your kidney stone, you must adopt some lifestyle changes and start using medications that are prescribed by the doctor in order to avoid the future recurrence of kidney stones.
1. Drink Plenty of Fluids
Drinking enough fluids every day perhaps is the best way to prevent the recurrence of kidney stones. If you were diagnosed with cystine stone, then your fluid intake should be even greater. Water is obviously the best and safest fluid. However, other fluids such as citrus drinks will also help prevent kidney stones.
2. Dietary Changes
Definitely you can't stick to your previous diet, so here are some changes that you might want to introduce to your diet:
For Calcium Oxalate Stones:
- Minimize sodium
- Minimize the intake of fish, eggs, and meat as they are the rich source of animal proteins
- Eat foods that are rich in calcium or take calcium supplements along with the food
- Avoid foods that are rich in oxalate like wheat bran, nuts, rhubarb and spinach
For Calcium Phosphate Stones:
- Minimize sodium intake
- Minimize the intake of animal protein
- Eat calcium-rich foods or take calcium supplements
For Uric Acid Stones:
- Minimize the intake of animal protein.
Given below is the video to some quick and easy home remedies for the kidney stones: