Kidney Stones: Everything you need to know about them

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If you are feeling intense need to urinate or nausea and vomiting or feeling a cramping pain in the back or front side of your abdomen, then you may have kidney stones. To know what they are and how you can get them treated, read the following sections.

What are Kidney Stones?

Urine is made up of many dissolved salts and minerals. If the concentration of these salts is high in your urine then it might lead to kidney stones. They develop in the kidney and along the urinary track (which includes ureters, bladder and urethra).

Types of Kidney Stones

There are several types of stones that form in kidney and along the urinary tract and if you know what type you have, you can take steps to prevent new ones from forming. Basically, there are four major types & they are:

Types of Kidney Stones

Calcium Stones: In 80 percent of the cases, the kidney stones are calcium stones making it the most common type. These are formed due to oxalate rich diet (Calcium oxalate stones). In some cases calcium phosphate stones will be formed.

Uric Acid Stones: Uric acid is waste product of human body which does not dissolve in acidic urine. As a result it will form Uric Acid Stones. So, If your urine becomes acidic then there is a high chance of developing Uric Acid Stones.

Struvite/Infection Stones: People with Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) have a risk of developing Strutive Stones. Women with UTI have higher risk of developing strutive stones. These stones can become large and have only few symptoms. If the kidney stones are found to be Strutive type then they can be treated by treating the underlying infection.

Cystine Stones: People with a hereditary disorder called Cystinuria develop cystine stones. This disorder causes the kidney to leak cystine into urine (hence the name), as a result cystine stones are developed.

Signs & Symptoms of Kidney Stones

Most of the time, early diagnosis of kidney stones may be difficult as they do not show any actionable symptoms in its early stages. Once the stones start to move down the ureters, you might start to notice symptoms. These symptoms are:

  • Severe pain in belly, groin or back
  • Increased frequency in urination
  • Dark or red urine due to blood
  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Vomiting and Nausea

What causes of Kidney Stones?

One of the main causes of stones is low water consumption. Some of the other reasons are:

  • Diet
  • Low Urine Volume
  • Bowel Conditions
  • Obesity
  • Cystinuria

Diagnosis

Kidney stones that show no symptoms can only be found during a health exam. If your doctor suspects stones then he/she might suggest Diagnostic tests. These tests are

  • X Rays: An X-Ray is taken in the abdominal region to check for kidney stones. But if the they are small then they cannot be seen with X-Ray Scan.
  • CT Scan: In CT scan you see even small stones. In case the patient is a pregnant women, it is advised to opt for Ultrasound Test to avoid unnecessary radiation.
  • Ultrasound: In ultrasound, the doctor will look for kidney stone and if detected will move on to next steps.
  • Urinalysis: Your urine might be collected on 2 consecutive days and analyzed for signs of stones.
  • Blood Tests: Doctor might suggest for blood test to look for too much calcium (reason for calcium stones) or uric acid (reason for uric acid stones) in blood.

Treatment Methods

If you are diagnosed with kidney stones then doctor might suggest you wait till they pass on their own. This is only possible if the stones are small. For bigger stones usually a surgery is preferred. Different treatment methods for small and bigger stones are as follows.

  • Drinking Required amount of water and fluids: If your kidney stone is small and has little to no symptoms, then consuming required amount of fluid may help to pass the stones within four to six weeks.

  • Medication: Your doctor might give medications for various reasons if you have stones. He might prescribe medications for pain, or relaxing muscles which will help pass the stones or decrease the acidity of the urine. Depending upon your condition, doctor will prescribe medication.

  • Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL): The doctor might suggest ESWL, where surgeon will use Sound waves to break up large stones. This will make it easier for the smaller stones to pass down the ureters.

Kidney Stones Treatment: Lithotripsy

    Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL)
  • Precutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL): In this procedure a small incision is made in your back in order to remove the stones. This is done if the stone has grown too much or the pain is unbearable or if the stone is damaging the kidneys.
  • Ureteroscopy: In this type of surgery, surgeon will use a uretoscope to remove the stone.

Preventing Kidney Stones

You can take preventive measures in general or you can take specific measures to prevent future stones (If stones are already formed once). Preventive measure usually reduce the risk factor for Kidney Stones. General Measures usually involve lifestyle changes in order to reduces the risk of stone formation, whereas, specific measures target the cause of the type of stones to prevent them from forming again. These might include medications and adapting to a particular type of diet.

Some of the basic prevention methods are

  • Increasing the amount of fluid consumption.
  • Reduce the amount of salt intake.
  • Consumption of appropriate amount of calcium.
  • Reducing the oxalate rich food.

FAQs

Q. What are the first signs of kidney stones?

Ans. Early signs of stones are

  • You might get pain in stomach, side and back.
  • Frequent urination and pain during urination.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Fever.
  • Blood in Urine.

Q. What are the 4 types of kidney stones?

Ans. There are four major types and they are Calcium Stones, Uric acid stones, Struvite Stone and Cystine stones.

Q. Can kidney stones be life threatening?

Ans. While they might not be a direct threat to your life, a kidney infection which leads to sepsis might become life threatening.

Q. How can I flush out kidney stones?

Ans. You can flush out your kidney stones only in some cases and where the stones are small. So, if your stones are small then doctor might suggest you to drink a lot of water. Doctor might also prescribe some medicine in order to relax muscles so that it eases the passage of stones.

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