Kidney stones can cause immense pain. You suffer the worst pain in your lifetime. It is severe and causes you discomfort. But, do you know that it is also the oldest disease. Men are more prone to get the kidney stones compared to women. The prevalence of the condition is on the rise. So, more and more people go to the doctor about the issue.
Do you know an interesting fact? The kidney stones were found in 7000-year-old Egyptian mummies. So, you have a historical record of the issue. Though the deposits look tine, it causes severe pain. Let’s delve deep into the issue. It will help you take the necessary steps to face it and overcome the problem.
What Are Kidney Stones?
The urine is the fluid that clears the toxic buildup from the body. So, the urine is a complex fluid. It looks like just water. But, it has several chemicals and minerals in it. The minerals in the urine have a high chance of becoming supersaturated. Hence, it results in the crystal formation that becomes gravel after binding with protein. Therefore, the excess protein in urine results in the stone formation. The kidney stones are also known as renal calculi as the principal element in the stone is calcium (80% of the time). In some cases, the stone has the following composition:
- Struvite (5%-15%)
- Uric Acid (5%-10%)
It can occur anywhere in the urinary tract. So, the stones may appear mostly in the parts:
Types Of Kidney Stones
You may think that all the kidney stones have the same crystal composition. But, no. You can differentiate the stones based on its composition.
It is the most common components that can affect more than 80% of the population. It may contain the following:
- Calcium Oxalate
- Calcium Phosphate
- Calcium Maleate
You can develop the stones with calcium composition by eating calcium oxalate-rich foods. With your body (liver) producing the oxalate, it can lead to stone formation. So, you need to consume the following food in moderation:
- Potato Chips
The stones can also have the calcium phosphate composition. It is common in some of the metabolic conditions, headaches, or medications.
The stone with uric acid composition is found more in men compared to the women. In such cases, the stone develops as a result of the high acidic composition of the urine. It happens due to the following:
It occurs in people who lose too much fluid or drink very little fluid. So, people who do not drink sufficient water are at risk.
People with gout or undergoing chemotherapy for cancer have high levels of acidic urine. It can result in stones.
Another major reason is the inclusion of a high-protein diet. Consuming food that has purines can raise the acidic levels of urine. So, eating animal protein (containing purine), meats or shellfish can result in stone formation.
It is the stone composition formed as a result of infections in the body. It is common among women. The main cause of struvite is the urinary tract infection resulting in large stone resulting in urine obstruction. To prevent the stone formation, it is important to seek treatment for the underlying infection.
The cysteine is a rare occurrence that affects men and women. It happens due to the genetic disorder cystinuria. So, the body produces acid naturally in the body. It leaks from the kidneys into your urine stream causing the stone. But, the stones are rare in nature.
Who Are At Risk Of Kidney Stones?
A kidney stone forms in the body as a result of the lack of liquid in the urine. So, it fails to dilute the chemical waste like oxalate, calcium, and phosphorous. It can lead to the crystal formation as the urine becomes concentrated. As the condition is common, you may wonder about the risk factors. Any person who produces less than one-liter urine a day can get the problem. It can affect the following people:
- People in the age group of 20 and 50.
- Infants or children diagnosed with kidney problems can get stones.
- Ethnicity is another factor that influences the stone formation. It is found that the Caucasians are at more risk than Africans.
- Genetics also plays a role in kidney stones. So, if anyone in your family has the issue, then you need to maintain caution.
- People with the history of the issue are more prone to getting it again compared to the others.
- Some medication like the anti-seizure drugs, diuretics, and calcium-based antacids can also result in the stones.
Others major causes of the issue are:
- Diet in high protein, glucose or salt
- Inflammatory bowel diseases
- Hyperparathyroid Condition
Warning Symptoms Of Kidney Stones
You may know about the presence of stones with the severe pain. Until then, you may not notice other issues. Once the stones move down your ureters, you can experience bad pain. In medical terms, the pain is referred to as renal colic. Hence, you may experience renal colic on the side of your back or abdomen. You may feel severe pain along with restlessness. Apart from that, you may also show the following signs:
- Foul smelling urine
- Urinating small amount with difficulty
- Frequent need to urinate
The Severity Of Kidney Stones
Kidney stones can pose a real problem for you. With small stones, it is not difficult to pass it through your urinary tract. So, you may never experience pain or other symptoms associated with it. But, with mid-sized to the large stone, it can cause severe distress. It is because of the fact that the stones never stay in one place. Hence, it passes from the kidney to other areas like the ureters. Ureters is a small and delicate organ. So, it becomes difficult for the stones to pass through it. You can experience severe pain with the passage of stone from the ureter to bladder. It causes irritation and spasm. Apart from that, you may also see the following symptoms:
- See blood in the urine
- Urinary obstruction
- Kidney Infection
- Kidney Damage
Diagnosing And Testing For Kidney Stones
You need to contact your doctor to get assessed for the severe pain. Your doctor may perform a complete health history assessment. You can undergo the following test methods:
Your doctor can perform the physical examination to find the more dangerous conditions. So, your doctor may feel the abdomen to detect other issues like:
- Aortic Aneurysm
- Abnormal Blood Flow
- Testicular Torsion
- Ovarian Issues
The physical examination is not effective to find the severity of the kidney stones. It only helps to detect the tenderness you may feel.
Your doctor may order a blood test. It will check the levels of uric acid, calcium, phosphorous, and electrolytes. The high levels of calcium and phosphorous mean kidney stone. Your healthcare provider orders the test to eliminate the other major complications due to kidney stones. The creatinine and the BUN (Blood Urea Nitrogen) test is also ordered to assess your kidney function.
The urinalysis offers a comprehensive analysis of the urine. It can check for the following:
- White blood cells
So, it can detect the complications due to kidney stones. The crystal found in the urine will help determine the type of stone. It also looks for evidence of underlying infection in your body. Based on the test results, your doctor may determine the treatment method.
If your doctor has already diagnosed the presence of stones, then x-rays can help detect the movement. The x-rays can give your doctor an idea about the movement of the stone from the ureter towards the bladder. CT scans can cause radiation exposure. So, it is not advisable to risk radiation exposure more than once per year.
Abdominal CT Scan
The CT scan offers comprehensive details about the different organs in the abdomen. So, your doctor can evaluate the condition of more than one organ with a single scan. It shows the following:
- Anatomy of kidney
- Bowel Area
It offers the detailed view of the kidney. So, it is easy to detect the stone, its size, and its location. It also determines if you have inflammation of kidneys or infection. For the CT scan, the oral/intravenous contrast dye is used for the diagnostic test. But, it uses no contrast. So, it has some limitation regarding the precision of the images.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging is the most technically advanced imaging that shows the organs with precision. So, the MRI is suggested by your doctor for a clearer picture. The kidneys and urinary tract are assessed with the MRI for better evaluation.
Ultrasound Of Kidney
Your doctor may suggest the ultrasound of the kidney. It shows the presence of kidney stones. Your doctor can also detect the obstruction. Pregnant women can opt for the method as they cannot take the risk of a CT scan. The CT scan can cause radiation risk. Skilled technician performs the ultrasound, so they can interpret the images with ease. With a highly trained technician, it becomes easy to make a diagnosis. In emergency cases, your physician can perform the ultrasound to understand the issues.
The contrast dye is not good for people with kidney problems. Some diseases can also trigger complications with the use of dye. So, you need to tell your doctor about your health issues. You also need to tell the details about the medicines you are taking. The radiologist must know the complete details before taking the scan. But, it is not an issue with people who have normal kidney function.
Kidney Stones Treatment
Your doctor may customize the treatment plan according to the type of kidney stones you have. If you pass the stones through urine, you need to collect it. It is then evaluated to determine the type. Based on it, your doctor may adopt different treatment plans.
The most common symptom of the stone is dehydration. With severe dehydration, you may experience nausea or vomiting. So, your doctor may suggest drinking fluids to rehydrate. In severe cases, you may need intravenous fluids
With the stones, you may experience severe pain. So, your doctor prescribes the narcotic pain relievers that can relieve the pain. But, the infection may require antibiotics to overcome the inflammation. The medical professional prescribes the Antiemetic medication for people with severe nausea and vomiting.
In case of large stones, your doctor may opt for lithotripsy. It makes use of the extracorporeal shock waves to treat the stones. So, the sound waves generated can break the large stones. The small stones are easy to pass through the ureters. The in-patient procedure can cause discomfort to you. It uses light anesthesia to numb the region. The side effects of the procedure are the bruising on the back and abdomen. You can also experience bleeding around the kidneys and other organs.
The invasive procedure is commonly known as Tunnel surgery. It involves removing the stones after making an incision in the back. Your doctor may suggest the procedure if you have the following:
- Infection or damage of kidneys due to the stone obstruction
- Large stones that are difficult to pass through the bladder
- Severe pain causing immense discomfort
It involves using an instrument known as ureteroscope. It is advisable for the stones that get stuck in your bladder or ureter. The instrument has a camera attached to it. Your doctor inserts the instrument into your urethra to find the exact position of the stone. It passes to the bladder to check for the stone. Once the stone gets located, your doctor snags it using a cage. After removing it, your doctor sends the stone for testing.
Preventing Kidney Stones
You can take some precautionary steps to prevent the issue. It will eliminate the possibility of getting the problem. So, follow the pointers:
Drinking water is important. It is the key measure to prevent the formation of stones. Drinking eight to ten glasses of water daily will offer hydration. So, you can pass enough urine to avoid accumulation in the kidneys. It will keep the stones at bay.
Drinking Other Fluids
Including other fluids can prevent the stone formation. So, increase your regular fluid intake by taking the following drinks
- Fruit Juice
- Ginger Ale
- Lemon/Lime Soda
Eating a healthy diet will offer key nutrients to your body. You can reduce the salt intake, animal proteins, and oxalate-rich foods. It will lower your risk of kidney stones.
If you have a history of kidney stones, then contact your doctor. Taking the medications prescribed by the doctor can prevent the issue. It will prevent the formation of uric acid stones and calcium stones. People with a history of stones need to get frequent checkups. It will prevent the issue from flaring up.
Kidney stones are a common condition that needs medical attention. You can avoid the severe pain by taking necessary actions. Include a diet that is proactive to prevent the issue. So, it will help you keep the severe pain associated with the complication at bay. Take the necessary steps at the right time.
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