What are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones are hard collections of salt and minerals often made up of calcium or uric acid. They form inside the kidney and can travel to other parts of the urinary tract. Stones vary in size. Some are as small as a fraction of an inch. Others can grow to a few inches across. Some kidney stones can become so large they take up the entire kidney. The condition of having kidney stones is termed nephrolithiasis.
Causes of formation of Kidney Stones
Often, stones are formed when the urine becomes concentrated, allowing minerals to crystallize and stick together.
- Kidney stones form when your urine contains more crystal-forming substances, such as calcium, oxalate and uric acid than the fluid in your urine can dilute.
- At the same time, your urine may lack substances that prevent crystals from sticking together, creating an ideal environment for kidney stones to form.
- The leading cause of kidney stones is a lack of water in the body. When there is not enough water to dilute the uric acid, a component of urine, the urine becomes more acidic.
- Medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease, urinary tract infections, renal tubular acidosis, hyperparathyroidism, medullary sponge kidney, and Dent’s disease increase the risk of kidney stones.
Symptoms of Kidney Stones
Symptoms usually occur if the kidney stone gets stuck in your kidney or starts to travel down the ureter (the tube that attaches each kidney to the bladder), the ureter is narrow and kidney stones can cause pain as they try to pass through or Kidney Stones cause an infection. In these cases, the symptoms of kidney stones can include:-
- A persistent ache in the lower back, which is sometimes also felt in the groin, men may have pain in their testicles and scrotum
- Periods of intense pain in the back or side of your abdomen, or occasionally in your groin, which may last for minutes or hours
- Feeling restless and unable to lie still
- Nausea (feeling sick)
- Needing to urinate more often than normal
- Pain when you urinate (dysuria)
- Blood in your urine (haematuria) this may be caused by the stone scratching the kidney or ureter
Treatment of Kidney Stones
Diagnosis of kidney stones is best accomplished using an ultrasound, intravenous pyleography (IVP), or a CT scan.
Treatment includes pain control medications and, in some cases, medications to facilitate the passage of urine. If needed, Lithotripsy or surgical techniques may be used for stones which do not pass through the ureter to the bladder on their own.
- Lithotripsy is a procedure that uses shock waves to break a kidney stone into smaller pieces that can be more easily expelled from the body. The device used for this procedure is called a Lithotripter.
Types of Kidney Stones
The four main types of kidney stones are as follows:-
- Calcium stones
- Struvite stones. Contain magnesium and ammonia; often horn-shaped and quite large
- Uric acid stones. Usually smooth, brown and softer than other types of kidney stones
- Cystine stones. Often yellow and resemble crystals rather than stones