What Are Kidney Stones? – Causes, Types, Symptoms and Treatments

What Are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones are small crystals of minerals and salt that may stick together over a period in the kidney forming a stone- a huge concentration of the minerals and salts in urine.

Many people believe that improper diet and lifestyle changes are connected to kidney stones. It is advised that one should avoid red meat, organic meat and shellfish to avoid uric acid stones. It is also believed that eating less animal-based protein and eating more fruits and vegetables will help decrease urine acidity reducing the chance for stone formation. Many scientists believe that drinking more fluid reduces the risk of occurring Kidney stone symptoms, as it normalises the concentration of salts minerals in the urine.

It is a known fact that the size of the kidney stones vary from that of grain to a golf ball! If they are small, they may pass through the urinary tract without any medical treatment. Big stones, though, are unable to pass through the urinary tract, therefore, leading to severe pain.

The kidneys filter the blood and remove excess water and waste chemicals to produce urine. Urine travels from each kidney down the tube (the ureter) draining urine from the kidney into the bladder. This is called the urinary tract.

Many waste chemicals are dissolved in the urine. The chemicals sometimes form tiny crystals in the urine which clump together to form a small stone. Most kidney stones are small and pass out with the urine. Some stones become stuck in a kidney or in the ureter.

In most cases, there is no known reason why a stone is formed. Most stones are made of calcium. However, in most cases, the amount of calcium and other chemicals in the urine and blood is normal.

Types Of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are classified by the substance that forms them. The main types of kidney stones are:

  • Calcium stones
  • Struvite stones
  • Uric acid stones
  • Cystine stones

Depending on the type, stones may be harder or softer, bigger or smaller, and more or less likely to cause pain or infections, and the treatment may differ.

Symptoms Of Kidney Stones

Although the stone is in the kidney or ureter, pain from the stone or any infection is usually felt elsewhere.

The symptoms of kidney stones include:

  • Painful lower back ache
  • Groin ache
  • Testicle or scrotum ache in men
  • Pain felt on the side of the abdomen
  • Unable to find a comfortable position, restlessness
  • Nausea
  • Urinating more often
  • Painful urination
  • Blood in urine
  • Cloudy urine
  • Smelly urine
  • Fever
  • Shivering
  • Chills
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhoea

Seek urgent medical attention if there’s fever, quickly worsening pain with or without chills or shaking.

Diagnosis Of Kidney Stones

  • Urine testing: This test helps an individual to know the amount of stone-forming minerals that he/she is excreting in the urine. Presence or absence of infection can also be detected.
  • Blood test: Blood test may help reveal biochemical problems that can lead to kidney stone formation such as elevated calcium level in the blood.
  • Ultrasonography: It helps detecting and measuring the kidney stones.
  • CT scans: They can help detect the presence of stones, their locations and their size.

Treatments For Kidney Stones

The treatment for kidney stones depends primarily on the type and size of these stones. If the stones are small, a person can easily pass these stones through urine. The smaller stones cause pain which lasts for a day or two and then subsides as the stones flow out.

People facing terrible pain are injected with painkillers and anti-emetics to treat the nausea. If the stones are small in size and do not need to be surgically removed, the doctor may advise waiting until it passes with the urine.

It is also advisable to drink a lot of water to avoid further growth of stones. Yellowish or brownish urine signals insufficient intake of water. Kidney stones that are larger than 6-7mm, need to be removed surgically. There are various techniques to remove the larger stones, depending on the size and location of these stones in the body.

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