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Kidney stones are the result of a buildup of dissolved minerals on the inner lining of the kidneys.
They usually consist of calcium oxalate but may be composed of several other compounds.
Kidney stones can grow to the size of a golf ball while maintaining a sharp, crystalline structure.
The stones may be small and pass unnoticed through the urinary tract, but they can also cause extreme pain as they leave the body.
A kidney stone usually remains symptomless until it moves into the ureter. When symptoms of kidney stones become apparent, they commonly include:
- severe pain in the groin and/or side
- blood in urine
- vomiting and nausea
- white blood cells or pus in the urine
- reduced amount of urine excreted
- burning sensation during urination
- persistent urge to urinate
- fever and chills if there is an infection
Kidney stones that remain inside the body can also lead to many complications, including blockage of the the tube connecting the kidney to the bladder, which obstructs the path that urine uses to leave the body.
The leading cause of kidney stones is a lack of water in the body.
Stones are more commonly found in individuals who drink less than the recommended eight to ten glasses of water a day.
When there is not enough water to dilute the uric acid, a component of urine, the urine becomes more acidic.
An excessively acidic environment in urine can lead to the formation of kidney stones.
Kidney stones are more common among males than females. Most people who experience kidney stones do so between the ages of 30 and 50 years. A family history of kidney stones also increases one’s chances of developing them.
Similarly, a previous kidney stone occurrence increases the risk that a person will develop subsequent stones in the future if preventative action is not taken.
Certain medications can increase the risk of developing kidney stones. Scientists found that topiramate (Topamax), a drug commonly prescribed to treat seizures and migraine headaches, can increase the likelihood of kidney stones developing.
Additional risk factors for kidney stones include diets that are high in protein and sodium but low in calcium, a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, high blood pressure, and conditions that affect how calcium is absorbed in the body such as gastric bypass surgery, inflammatory bowel disease, and chronic diarrhea.
Treating kidney stones is primarily focused on symptom management. Passing a stone can be very painful.
If a person has a history of kidney stones, home treatment may be suitable. Individuals who have never passed a kidney stone should speak with a doctor.
If hospital treatment is needed, an individual may be rehydrated via an intravenous (IV) tube, and anti-inflammatory medication may also be administered.
Narcotics are often used in an effort to make the pain of passing the stone tolerable. Antiemetic medication can be used in people experiencing nausea and vomiting.
In some cases, a urologist can perform a shock wave therapy called lithotripsy. This is a treatment that breaks the kidney stone into smaller pieces and allow it to pass.
People with large stones located in regions that do not allow for lithotripsy may receive surgical procedures, such as removal of the stone via an incision in the back or by inserting a thin tube into the urethra.
There are a few steps that can be taken to reduce the impact of kidney stones and assist doctors in providing treatment.
The first is drinking enough water to make the urine completely clear. A person can tell they are not consuming enough water if their urine is yellow or brown.
A doctor may also request that a kidney stone is passed naturally though urinating. They will then ask that you retrieved a kidney stone from the urine by filtering it through a stocking or gauze.
On studying the retrieved stone, they will be able to determine what further treatment is required.
There are several foods that have a positive impact on kidney health. These can help reduce both the risk and impact of kidney stones. The body naturally passes the stone within 48 to 72 hours.
Kidney beans are one such option. Boil the pods inside the beans for around six hours, strain the liquid, and allow this liquid to cool.
People with kidney stones should consume this liquid every 2 hours over the course of 1 to 2 days.
Other foods that can protect the kidneys include:
For individuals in good health, preventing kidney stones can be as easy as staying hydrated.
Doctors may also prescribe medicines to prevent certain types of stones for individuals who are at higher risk.
Several different tests can verify the existence of a kidney stone. A physical examination may reveal colicky pain in the groin and the lower near the kidneys. These are often warning signs of the condition.
An analysis of the urine will indicate whether or not there is blood in the urine and if there is a subsequent infection. Blood tests can be carried out to identify complications that may accompany a kidney stone and check the validity of the diagnosis.
A CT scan of the abdomen is one way to test for kidney stones. A CT scan will ascertain the state of the ureter, bladder, and kidneys, whether or not a stone exists, the kidney stone’s exact size and location, whether or not a blockage has occurred, and the state of other organs in the area, such as the appendix, aorta, and pancreas.
Pregnant women should receive an ultrasound rather than a CT scan to avoid unnecessary radiation.
Once a person is diagnosed with a kidney stone, simple X-rays will be used to track the progress of the stone through the excretory system.