Kidney Stones

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Types of Kidney Stones

If the type of kidney stone is known, it could be helpful in recognizing the cause, preventing occurrences in the future. Should you pass a kidney stone, try to save it for your physician for analysis.

Types of kidney stones include:

  • Calcium kidney stones, the most common

Calcium oxalate is a natural substance generated daily by your liver and found in food (e.g., vegetables, fruits, nuts, chocolate, and others). High doses of vitamin D, certain metabolic disorders, and intestinal bypass surgery may escalate your risk. Calcium kidney stones may also be the result of some types of migraine headaches or the use of certain medications used for seizure.

  • Cystine kidney stones

Cystine kidney stones are caused by a hereditary disorder that produces excretion of an excess of specific amino acids.

  • Struvite kidney stones

Developed as a rapid reaction to an infection (such as urinary tract), struvite kidney stones may become quite large. Often there is little warning and limited symptoms.

  • Uric acid kidney stones

Uric acid kidney stones usually develop as a result of drinking too few fluids; the loss of too much fluid; high protein diets; gout; and genetic influences.

Kidney Stone Signs and Symptoms

You may not be aware that you have a kidney stone until it begins to shift around within your kidney or travel into your ureter, the passageway that connects the kidney and bladder. At this point, the signs and symptoms may become painfully obvious, the location and intensity changing as the kidney stone progresses through the urinary tract.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Acute pain in the back and side, below your ribs
  • Pain radiating to your lower abdomen and groin
  • Pain coming in surges, varying in intensity
  • Pain when urinating
  • Urine that is murky and/or rank-smelling
  • Urine that is brown, pink, or red
  • Inability to urinate more than small amounts at one time
  • A frequent need to urinate more often than usual
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever and chills

Should you experience any of the following, seek medical attention right away:

  • Pain so unyielding that you are unable to stay still or find a position that allows you relief
  • Pain along with nausea and vomiting and/or fever and chills
  • Bloody urine
  • Difficulty urinating

Risks for Developing Kidney Stones

Although there are several factors that may increase your risk for kidney stones, they have no specific, solo cause. Possible risks factors include:

  • Personal or family history

If you or a family member has had kidney stones, your risk for having them is higher.

  •  Dietary habits

Consuming foods high in protein, sugar, and sodium (salt) may multiply your risk of some types of kidney stones. In the case of salt, too much of it increases the amount of calcium that must be filtered by your kidneys, thus escalating your probability of developing kidney stones.

  • Dehydration

Inadequate daily water intake, particularly if you live in a warm/dry climate and perspire a great deal, can put you at greater risk of forming kidney stones.

  • Diseases of the digestive system/surgery

Inflammatory bowel disease, chronic diarrhea, and gastric bypass surgery may affect changes in your digestive process, such how calcium and water are absorbed; this, in turn, increases the concentration of stone-forming substances in your urine.

  • Obesity

Being overweight (high body mass index/BMI), weight gain, and substantial waist size have been shown to increase the risk of developing kidney stones.

  • Various medical diseases/conditions

Renal tubular acidosis (an accumulation of acid in the body); cystinuria (a common defect in transporting an amino acid); hyperparathyroidism (a high concentration of parathyroid hormone, resulting in loss of calcium); some medications; and certain urinary tract infections may increase your risk of developing kidney stones.

  • Gender and ethnicity

Caucasian males are greatest risk for developing kidney stones.

Treatment for Kidney Stones

In most cases, kidney stones will pass on their own, albeit often painfully; pain medication and drinking large amounts of water may be of help. The smaller the stone, the easier the passage and the less likely treatment will be needed.

If your kidneys are healthy, serious harm does not occur until your urinary tract is completely blocked for two or more weeks. However, should you have only one kidney; have had a kidney transplant; have a compromised immune system; or are pregnant, your physician should be consulted.

For kidney stones that do not expel on their own, three procedures are generally used:

  • Lithotripsy, in which shock waves break the stone into smaller portions more easily passed
  • Surgery (percutaneous nephrolithotomy), in which the stone is removed through a tiny incision in the skin
  • Use of a ureteroscope, an instrument passed through the urethra and bladder to reach the ureter

Prevention of Kidney Stones

According to the National Kidney Foundation, one in ten people in the United States will have a kidney stone in his or her lifetime, and current studies show that are rising.

Some steps to prevent kidney stones from forming include:

  • Stay hydrated with water and/or citrus drinks, particularly when you are exercising or performing activities that cause you to sweat. Eight 8 ounce cups daily are recommended.
  • Consume foods rich in calcium and oxalate together during a meal.
  • Reduce your salt intake.
  • Ration the mount of animal protein in your diet.
  • Eat a healthy diet of primarily vegetables/fruits, dairy products low in fat, and whole grains.
  • Limit your intake of sugar-sweetened foods and drinks.
  • Avoid or reduce intake of foods that are stone-forming, e.g. chocolate, beets, spinach, cola-drinks, and some nuts.


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