Kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that are located towards the back of the abdomen on either side of the spine. Kidneys remove waste products from the blood in the form of urine. The main functions performed by the kidneys include maintaining the overall fluid balance in the body, filtering waste materials, and regulating and filtering mineral content in the blood. If the balance of these compounds changes in the body, kidney stones may form.
Kidney Stones: Causes and Treatment
Kidney stones are small deposits of salts and minerals that form inside the kidneys. Small stones may travel down the urinary tract and pass undetected. But, if the crystals don’t pass over time, they may build up to form bigger and harder stones. A bigger stone is hard to pass and can cause severe pain in the abdomen or groin, and sometimes, may cause a urinary tract infection (UTI). The stones can form in various sizes, from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a ping-pong ball.
There are different signs and symptoms of kidney stones, such as pain in the abdomen, back, groin, or flank, cloudy or smelly urine, nausea and vomiting, blood in urine, etc. If you notice any of these kidney stone symptoms, it is best to consult a nephrology expert at a top kidney hospital in your city.
What causes kidney stones?
The formation of kidney stones has no single or definite cause; however, there are several factors that may increase your risk of developing kidney stones. Dehydration, family history of kidney stones, genetics, and certain medical conditions are a few factors that may increase your risk of developing kidney stones.
You are more likely to have kidney stones if you don’t drink enough fluids, or if you’re taking some types of medication, or if you have a medical condition that raises the levels of certain substances in your urine. There are four types of kidney stones – calcium, struvite, uric acid, and cystine stones. Knowing the type of stone formed can help determine the cause and may help you know about how to reduce your risk of getting kidney stones in the future. If you have a recurrence of kidney stones, get tested for the type of stones that are forming in your kidneys, and take advice from a kidney specialist at a leading nephrology hospital.
Kidney stones develop when there are high amounts of calcium, oxalate, and uric acid in your urine. Furthermore, your urine may lack in factors that prevent crystals from sticking together, leading to the formation of kidney stones.
What increases Risk of Kidney stones?
There is not one definite cause for the formation of kidney stones; however, there are certain factors that can increase your risk for it, some of these factors are –
Family or personal history
If someone in your family has had kidney stones, then you’re more likely to develop stones. Plus, if you have yourself had kidney stones before, you’re at increased risk of developing another in the future.
Not consuming enough water can also increase your risk of kidney stones. People living in warm climates and those who sweat a lot may be at higher risk than others.
Weight gain, high body mass index (BMI), and large waist size have been associated with an increased risk of kidney stones.
Eating a high protein, sodium (salt), and/or sugar diet may increase your risk. A high-sodium diet makes you more susceptible to kidney stone formation, as too much salt in your diet increases the amount of calcium, and this consequently increases your risk.
Digestive diseases and surgery
Digestive diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease or chronic diarrhea, and gastric bypass surgery, can cause changes in the digestive process and thereby affect the absorption of calcium and water, increasing your levels of stone-forming substances in your urine.
Taking medications like diuretics, anti-seizure drugs, and calcium-based antacids, have been linked to increase in the risk of formation of kidney stones.
Kidney stone treatment
Treatment of kidney stones can include lifestyle changes, medical therapy, and surgical treatment. Here are the different treatments for this–
Drinking six to eight glasses of water a day increases urine flow and thereby, reduces the risk of stone formation. Reducing the amount of oxalate-rich foods, salt, and animal proteins in your meals can also lower your risk of development of stones in kidney.
Narcotic medication may be given to relieve pain, and if there is an infection, antibiotics may be prescribed. Medication known as alpha blockers may also be given to help pass the kidney stone by relaxing the ureter muscles.
Lithotripsy is a shock wave therapy that uses sound waves to break up big stones into smaller pieces, so they can pass through more easily. This is a non-invasive procedure but requires light anesthesia.
In this surgical procedure, stones are removed through a small incision in your back. This procedure is performed when the stone is too large to pass, is causing pain and infection, or is damaging the kidney.
If a stone gets stuck in the ureter or bladder, an instrument called ureteroscope may be used to remove it. Ureteroscope is a small wire with a camera attached. It is inserted into the urethra and passed into the bladder. A small cage is used to catch the stone and remove it.
If you’ve had a kidney stone in the past or if you’re at risk for a kidney stone, speak with a kidney specialist to know how to prevent kidney stone formation.