Kidney stones are brown or yellow-colored solid masses made of crystals. Kidney stones generally form and originate from the kidneys but can develop in any part along the urinary tract, which includes the kidneys, ureters, urinary bladder, and the urethra. Kidney stones vary in size. Medically considering, kidney stones are considered one of the most painful diseases. There are several causes of kidney stones. However, the exact cause of the kidney stone may vary as per the type of stone.
Identify the CLUES – Symptoms of Kidney Stones
Kidney stones cause severe pain. The symptoms of kidney stones may not be experienced until the stone moves down the ureter. The condition causes aggressive pain. This severe pain caused is known as “renal colic”. You may experience a lot of pain on one side of your back or lower abdomen. Among males, the pain due to kidney stones may emit to the groin part of the body. The pain of renal colic is not constant and generally comes and goes away. But the pain can get very intense at times. People suffering from renal colic remain restless most of the time.
Other common signs of kidney stones are:
- Blood in the urine. The urine mostly appears red, pink, or brown in color.
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Foul-smelling urine
- Fever and chills
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Urinating small amounts of urine more often
In the case the patient has a small kidney stone, he or she may not experience any pain or symptoms because the stone directly passes in the urine through the urinary tract.
CHANCES – Possible Risk factors for kidney stones
The biggest risk factor in the case of kidney stones is the kidneys making less than 1 liter of urine each day. This is the reason why kidney stones are more common in premature babies who are suffering from kidney problems. Although, kidney stones most commonly occur in people between the age group of 20 to 50. Certain factors can increase the risk of developing kidney stones.
Sex also plays an important role in this context. As per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), men are more likely to develop kidney stones than women. People with a history of kidney stones also increases the risk. Even a family history of kidney stones increases the risk of getting the disease.
Other common risk factors of kidney stones include:
- A diet consisting of high levels of protein, salt or glucose
- Condition of hyperparathyroidism
- Weight loss surgery such as gastric bypass surgery
- Inflammatory bowel diseases which lead to an increase of calcium absorption
- Intake of medications like triamterene diuretics, antiseizure drugs, and calcium consisting antacids
How can kidney stones be a problem?
Kidney stones don’t always just stay in the kidneys. At times, the stones directly pass from the kidneys to the ureters, which are small in size and are delicate. Kidney stones larger in size may be at times very large to be passed easily down the ureters into the bladder. The passing of stones down into the ureters can cause pain, spasms, and irritation in the ureters. This is the reason for blood to appear in the urine. At times, kidney stones large in size can block the flow of urine. This condition is common in the case of large kidney stones and is called a urinary obstruction. Urinary obstructions can further cause kidney infections or kidney damage.
Diagnosis of kidney stones includes a complete and thorough analysis of the health history and physical exam of the patient. Other tests included in the diagnosis of kidney stones are:
- Blood tests to check for calcium, phosphorus, uric acid, and electrolytes
- Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine to check the kidney functioning
- Urinalysis to check for any crystals, bacteria, blood, and white cells in the system
- Examination to check for stones passed in the urine to determine their type
The tests mentioned below can rule out the following obstructions:
- Abdominal X-rays
- Intravenous pyelogram (IVP)
- Retrograde pyelogram
- Ultrasound of the kidney (the test required is generally suggested)
- MRI scan of the kidneys and abdomen
- CT scan of the abdominal area
There is a certain type of contrast dye used in the CT scan and IVP which can affect kidney function. However, in the case of people with normal kidney functioning, this is not a cause of concern. There are certain medications that can increase the possibility for kidney damage in co-occurrence with the contrast dye. Make sure that the radiologist you are considering for diagnosis is aware of any medications that you are taking.
Treatment is decided as per the type of stone. For diagnosis of the disease, the urine may be strained and stones might be collected for evaluation. Drinking six to eight glasses of water each day increases the flow of urine. People who remain dehydrated or are suffering from severe nausea and vomiting may face the need of additional intravenous fluids. Other treatment options for kidney stones include:
Medication-The condition of kidney stones is severely painful. The patient may require medication for pain relief which may include narcotic medications. The presence of infection needs immediate treatment with the required antibiotics.
Laser Lithotripsy- Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy requires sound waves to break the larger stones into smaller ones so that they can more easily pass in the urine down the ureters into your bladder. This procedure of Lithotripsy can be very uncomfortable for the patient. The doctor may give light anesthesia to the patient to prevent any pain or discomfort. Lithotripsy can also cause light or heavy bruising on the abdomen (lower) and back. There can also be bleeding around the kidney and nearby organs in or after the procedure.
Tunnel surgery (percutaneous nephrolithotomy- The surgeon removes the stones from the patient by making a small incision in the back of the patient back. A patient may require this procedure when:
- The stone causes obstruction of the urine
- The stone causes infections or damages the kidneys
- The stone has enlarged and can no longer be passed
- The pain due to the stone gets aggressive and can no longer be managed
Ureteroscopy– This treatment is required in cases when the stone gets stuck in the ureter or urinary bladder. In such cases, the doctor uses an instrument known as Ureteroscope to remove the stone. To perform the procedure, a small wire with a camera attached to its one end is inserted into the urethra of the patient. The Ureteroscope is then passed to the urinary bladder. The doctor uses a small cage to break down the stone and remove it. The stone is further sent to the laboratory for the required analysis.
Drinking plenty of water and keeping the body hydrated regularly is the easiest and most essential preventive measure. It is recommended to drink sufficient water in order to pass approximately 3.6 liters of urine each day. Increasing the intake of water increases the amount of urine that the patient passes. This may increase the chances of flushing the stones through the urine. Adding substitutes such as ginger ale, lemon soda, and fresh fruit juices, etc instead of water can also help increase the fluid intake. If the cause of stones is linked to low citrate levels, citrus juices can help prevent the formation of such stones. Adding oxalate-rich food items in diet and reducing the intake of salt and animal proteins can also decrease the risk of developing kidney stones.
To treat the disease, the doctor may recommend medications to help put a stop to the formation of calcium and uric acid kidney stones. If the patient has had a kidney stone earlier, or he is at risk of getting a kidney stone again. Stay in touch with your doctor in such cases and consult him or her for the best methods of prevention suitable for you.