What is Kidney Stone ?

Kidney Stones Apr 17, 2024

Kidney stones are a common and painful condition that can affect anyone, but with the right knowledge and habits, you can lower your risk and manage them effectively. Let's dive into what kidney stones are, their symptoms, prevention tips, treatment options, and other important information in simple language.

Imagine tiny, hard pebbles forming inside your kidneys. That's what kidney stones are – solid masses made up of minerals and salts that can develop when your urine becomes too concentrated. They can vary in size, from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball, and they can cause a lot of discomfort if they start moving around.

Types of kidney stones

Kidney stones come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colour. Some are like grains of sand, while in rare cases others can grow to the size of a golf ball.

The main types of kidney stones are:

  • Calcium stones, the most common type of stone
  • Struvite stones, usually caused by an infection, like a urine infection
  • Uric acid stones, usually caused by a large amount of acid in your urine
  • Cystine Stones, usually caused by genetic disorder called cystinuria, leading to excessive cystine excretion in urine.

What are the symptoms of kidney stones?

At first you may have no symptoms from a kidney stone.

Later you may notice pain as the stone moves from your kidney into your bladder or when you pass urine.

The kidney stone could cause a blockage in your urinary system.

You might feel a gripping pain in your back, side, lower belly or groin. This pain is called renal colic. The pain of kidney stones can be severe and lead to you feeling sick or vomiting.

If you have kidney stones, you may also:

  • have blood in your urine
  • feel nauseous
  • have a fever, hot and cold shivers or sweats
  • have bad smelling urine if you have an infection
  • feel like you have gravel in your urine
  • feel like you need to pass urine often or urgently
  • see small stones in your urine

If the pain is very severe you should see a doctor or go to your nearest emergency department.

What causes kidney stones?

Kidney stones form when minerals and salts in urine crystallize and stick together to form solid masses. Here is a concise summary of the main causes of kidney stones:

// Dehydration:

  • Insufficient fluid intake can lead to concentrated urine, allowing minerals to crystallize and form stones.

// Dietary Factors:

  • High intake of oxalate-rich foods like spinach, nuts, and chocolate can contribute to calcium oxalate stones.

// Medical Conditions:

  • Conditions like hypercalciuria (excessive urinary calcium), hyperuricosuria (high uric acid in urine), and gout increase stone risk.
  • Digestive diseases or surgeries that affect calcium absorption can contribute to stone formation.
  • Genetics and Family History: Some individuals are genetically predisposed to kidney stones.
  • Lifestyle Factors: Obesity and sedentary lifestyle increase the risk of metabolic imbalances leading to stone formation.
  • Medical Treatments and Medications: Certain medications, such as diuretics and excessive calcium or vitamin D supplements, can promote stone formation.

Prevention of Kidney Stones

The good news is that there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting kidney stones:

  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your urine diluted and help prevent mineral buildup.
  • Eat a Balanced Diet: Limit foods that are high in oxalates (like spinach, rhubarb, nuts) and sodium, and try to eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Being overweight can increase your risk of kidney stones, so try to keep your weight in a healthy range.
  • Watch Your Medications: Some medications can increase the risk of kidney stones, so talk to your doctor about any concerns.

How are kidney stones diagnosed ?

Healthcare providers use imaging, blood and urine (pee) tests to diagnose kidney stones. If your provider suspects you have a kidney stone based on your symptoms and physical exam, you may need one or more of these tests:

  • Urine test: A provider can test your pee for blood, stone-forming crystals and signs of infection.
  • Imaging: X-rays, CT scans (computed tomography scans) and ultrasound can help your healthcare provider see the size, shape, location and number of stones.
  • Blood tests: A provider can use blood tests to check your kidney function, detect infections and look for high levels of calcium or other conditions that could lead to stone formation.

Treatment of Kidney Stones

If you do get kidney stones, there are ways to treat them depending on their size and location:

  • Drinking Water: Sometimes, drinking lots of water can help small stones pass on their own.
  • Medications: Pain relievers and medications that help the stone pass or prevent new stones from forming.
  • Medical Procedures:
    • Shock Wave Lithotripsy: This uses shock waves to break up stones into smaller pieces that can pass more easily.
    • Ureteroscopy: A provider inserts a scope through your urethra and bladder and into your ureter. Instruments the provider passes through the scope can break up and remove the stone. The smaller pieces can move through your urinary tract and out of your body more easily.
    • Laparoscopic surgery: During laparoscopic surgery, your provider makes a small incision to remove the stone. In some rare cases, your provider might need to perform open surgery (with a larger incision) instead of laparoscopy.

Other Useful Information

  • See a Doctor: If you think you have kidney stones or experience symptoms like severe pain, blood in urine, or nausea, see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
  • Follow-Up Care: After treatment, it's important to follow up with your doctor to prevent new stones from forming and to monitor your kidney health.

In Conclusion, Kidney stones can be painful and disruptive, but by making some changes to your lifestyle and getting the right treatment when needed, you can manage them effectively. Don't hesitate to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about kidney stones – they're here to help you stay healthy and pain-free.