Hard deposits of minerals or salts that form inside kidneys are called Kidney Stones. Various factors lead to kidney stones.
What are Kidney Stones?
Your kidneys are responsible for the removal of waste and fluid from the body in the form of urine. At times, your body may have excess waste and not enough fluid in the blood. These wastes stick together to form solid masses of crystals. These crystals are called kidney stones, or renal calculi.
The crystals can form anywhere along your urinary tract including kidneys, urethras, bladder, and urethra. Stone-forming chemicals include calcium, oxalate, cystine, xanthine, urate, and phosphate. A painful medical condition, kidney stones can develop due to various causes.
There are four main types of kidney stones:
- Uric Acid: This is a common type of stone. Eating foods high in purine leads to the formation of monosodium urate, which can form stones.
- Calcium Oxalate: This is the most common type of kidney stone. Inadequate calcium and less fluid intake lead to calcium combining with oxalate in the urine. This along with other factors can lead to the formation of stones.
- Struvite: These stones are not very common and form due to infections of the upper urinary tract.
- Cystine: A rare form, this condition may run in families.
You will experience symptoms if the kidney stones move around within your kidney or pass into your ureters. If stones get lodged in the ureters, they block the flow of urine. This can lead to swelling of the kidney and spasms of the ureter, causing immense pain. The symptoms of kidney stones include:
- Sharp pain on either side of the lower back
- Pain radiating to the lower abdomen and groin
- Pain or burning while urinating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Foul-smelling or cloudy urine
- Red, brown, or pink urine
There are various reasons that lead to the formation of kidney stones. Below is an explanation of the causes.
- Food: Research suggests that certain diets can possibly make people more susceptible to stones. Foods that are low in fibers or high in oxalates are examples. Instances linking pork, beef, fish, and poultry to the formation of uric acid stones have also be observed.
- Genetics: Certain studies suggest that genetic factors might affect the chance of developing stones. People with a family history of kidney stones could be at a greater risk of the condition.
- Gender: Men and women may be susceptible to different kinds of stones. Women are more commonly affected by UTIs and therefore more susceptible to struvite type of kidney stones.
- Location: Some research indicates that the prevalence of kidney stones also depends on where an individual is located. Differences in climate could be a reason for this geographical imbalance. For example, people tend to get more dehydrated in warmer climates, leading to a higher risk of developing stones.
- Dehydration: Dehydration is one of the most common potential causes for the formation of stones. People who drink less than six to eight glasses of fluid a day are more susceptible. However, not all fluids will have the same effect. For example, caffeinated beverages will have a diuretic effect, leading to the need to urinate. You should therefore choose water as your main beverage.
- Medications: Certain antibiotics may raise the risk of developing stones. An example of this would be people using acetylsalicylic acid to prevent heart attacks. Calcium-based antacids can also increase the risk.
- Health Trouble: Illnesses like Chrohn’s disease, UTIs, and diabetes, may increase the risk of stones. Moreover, people with HIV might also be at a higher risk of developing stones due to certain anti-HIV medications.
- Surgery: Intestinal surgeries like bowel resection can lead to the formation of kidney stones. This condition is rare and develops in only a few patients.
- Exercise: Though there is no clear proof, there is the possibility of a connection between lack of exercise and the formation of stones. Some people have developed stones due to bed rest required after surgery. Research indicates that even moderate exercise can reduce the risk of kidney stones.
Apart from the causes that have been explained above, other risk factors included are obesity, hyperparathyroidism, anti-seizure drugs, gastric bypass surgery, and kidney disease.
Treatment of kidney stones depends on the type of stone detected. If your kidney stone is small, your doctor might ask you to drink plenty of water and take pain medicine. This may help push the stone through the urinary tract. However, if the stone is large, you might require additional treatment. Treatments like shock wave lithotripsy, ureteroscopy, and in rare cases, a surgery named percutaneous nephrolithotomy are used to treat kidney stones.
The best way to prevent kidney stones is to remain hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day. Your diet should also have limited amounts of sodium and animal protein and lots of fruits and vegetables. Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly also helps reduce the risk.