Kidney Stone

What is a Kidney Stone?

Kidney Stones originate inside the urinary tract or the kidneys and they are solid formations that develop from minerals. Kidney stones materialize when a person’s urine contains an excessive amount of uric acid, oxalate or calcium. Kidney stones can become a major health issue when they obstruct urine flow.

A blockage in the urinary tract can cause a kidney infection or damage to the kidneys. People who do not consume the recommended amount of water they need every day are at a high risk for acquiring this condition. Medical issues, including urinary tract infections, Crohn’s disease, Dent’s disease and hyperparathyroidism, can also promote the development of kidney stones.

What are the Symptoms of a Kidney Stone?

There are several symptoms that indicate the presence of kidney stones and the most pronounced symptom is extreme pain. Individuals may have pain in the lower portion and side of their abdomen, in the groin area, underneath their rib cage and in their back. The pain often comes on strong, subsides and then becomes excruciating again. Experiencing pain while urinating is another common symptom of kidney stones. Changes in urine to look for include urine that has a foul odor and urine that has a red, pink or brown hue. Some people have the urge to urinate frequently but can only pass a minuscule quantity at one time.

Kidney Stone Causes

While kidney stones don’t have an absolute, single cause, there are several factors that can increase your risk of getting one. A kidney stone can develop when your urine has more uric acid, oxalate and calcium, and other crystal-forming substances. When the fluid in your urine can no longer dilute these substances, a kidney stone may form. If your urine is lacking the substances that prevent crystals from sticking together, you are also prone to kidney stones.

Calcium stones are the most common type of kidney stone and usually form as a result of calcium oxalate build-up. Calcium oxalate naturally occurs in foods as well as in our liver. Certain foods have higher concentrations of oxalate, such as some fruits and vegetables, chocolate and nuts. Intestinal bypass surgery, high doses of vitamin D, and certain metabolic disorders can increase the concentration of oxalate or calcium in urine.

Uric acid kidney stones can form when you don’t drink enough fluids or when you lose too much fluid. This type of kidney stone can also form in people with gout or in people who consume a high-protein diet.

Struvite kidney stones can form as a result of an infection like a urinary tract infection (UTI). This type of kidney stone can grow to be rather large and usually doesn’t have any symptoms associated with it.

Cystine kidney stones form in people with a hereditary disorder which causes the kidneys to excrete too much cystinuria, an amino acid.

How is a Kidney Stone Treated?

Individuals who have small kidney stones can often pass them effectively by drinking large amounts of water and taking a prescribed medication that causes the ureter muscles to relax. Taking an over the counter pain medication can help with the pain and discomfort until the stones are passed.

Treatment for large kidney stones may include undergoing a procedure that busts up the stones by using sound waves so the smaller fragments can travel through the urethra. Another type of surgery, called percutaneous nephrolithotomy, may be performed if the shock wave procedure does not produce positive results.

Kidney Stones Prevention

With certain lifestyle changes, you can prevent kidney stones. Drinking plenty of water is the best way to prevent getting a kidney stone. Doctors recommend passing around 2.6 quarts (or 2.5 liters) of urine per day. If you live in a drier climate, even more water is recommended. Drinking enough so that your urine is light and clear is recommended.

You can also eat a diet low in animal protein and salt. Non-animal protein sources – such as legumes – can be used as an alternative. Eating fewer oxalate-rich foods can also help prevent kidney stones. Eliminate foods like sweet potatoes, rhubarb, chocolate, spinach, Swiss chard, beets, black pepper, nuts, okra, tea, and soy products.