What is a kidney stone?
A kidney stone is a hard, crystalline mineral material formed within the kidney or urinary tract. Kidney stones are a common cause of blood in the urine (hematuria) and often severe pain in the abdomen, flank, or groin. Kidney stones are sometimes called renal calculi.
The condition of having kidney stones is termed nephrolithiasis. Having stones at any location in the urinary tract is referred to as urolithiasis, and the term ureterolithiasis is used to refer to stones located in the ureters.
Kidney stones (renal lithiasis, nephrolithiasis) are hard deposits made of minerals and salts that form inside your kidneys.
Kidney stones have many causes and can affect any part of your urinary tract — from your kidneys to your bladder. Often, stones form when the urine becomes concentrated, allowing minerals to crystallize and stick together.
Passing kidney stones can be quite painful, but the stones usually cause no permanent damage if they're recognized in a timely fashion. Depending on your situation, you may need nothing more than to take pain medication and drink lots of water to pass a kidney stone. In other instances — for example, if stones become lodged in the urinary tract, are associated with a urinary infection or cause complications — surgery may be needed.
Your doctor may recommend preventive treatment to reduce your risk of recurrent kidney stones if you're at increased risk of developing them again.
Kidney stones are the result of an accumulation of dissolved minerals on the inner lining of the kidneys.
They are usually comprised of calcium oxalate but may be composed of several other compounds deposits.
Anyone may develop a kidney stone, but people with certain diseases and conditions (see below) or those who are taking certain medications are more susceptible to their development. Urinary tract stones are more common in men than in women. Most urinary stones develop in people 20 to 49 years of age, and those who are prone to multiple attacks of kidney stones usually develop their first stones during the second or third decade of life. People who have already had more than one kidney stone are prone to developing further stones.
In residents of industrialized countries, kidney stones are more common than stones in the bladder. The opposite is true for residents of developing areas of the world, where bladder stones are the most common. This difference is believed to be related to dietary factors. People who live in the southern or southwestern regions of the U.S. have a higher rate of kidney stone formation than those living in other areas. Over the last few decades, the percentage of people with kidney stones in the U.S. has been increasing, most likely related to the obesity epidemic.
A family history of kidney stones is also a risk factor for developing kidney stones. Kidney stones are more common in Asians and Caucasians than in Native Americans, Africans, or African Americans.
Uric acid kidney stones are more common in people with chronically elevated uric acid levels in their blood (hyperuricemia).
A small number of pregnant women develop kidney stones, and there is some evidence that pregnancy-related changes may increase the risk of stone formation. Factors that may contribute to stone formation during pregnancy include a slowing of the passage of urine due to increased progesterone levels and diminished fluid intake due to a decreasing bladder capacity from the enlarging uterus. Healthy pregnant women also have a mild increase in their urinary calcium excretion.
type of kidney stone contains calcium in combination with either oxalate or phosphate. A majority of kidney stones are calcium stones. Other chemical compounds that can form stones in the urinary tract include uric acid, magnesium ammonium phosphate (which forms struvite stones; see below), and the amino acid cysteine.
Dehydration from reduced fluid intake or strenuous exercise without adequate fluid replacement increases the risk of kidney stones. Obstruction to the flow of urine can also lead to stone formation. In this regard, climate may be a risk factor for kidney stone development, since residents of hot and dry areas are more likely to become dehydrated and susceptible to stone formation.
Kidney stones can also result from infection in the urinary tract. These are known as struvite or infection stones. Metabolic abnormalities, including inherited disorders of metabolism, can alter the composition of the urine and increase an individual's risk of stone formation.
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The occurrence of a kidney stone in a child is a relatively rare event. In countries where plants are the main source of protein in the diet, for example Southeast Asia, the Middle East, India, and Eastern Europe, the frequency of kidney stone disease in children rises. In developing countries, kidney stones made of uric acid are more commonly found.
Symptoms of kidney stones in children are similar to those in an adult, although with very young children or infants, the symptoms may be harder to appreciate and understand. The initial finding in an infant may be a crying and inconsolable baby, and the presentation may be mistaken for colic.
What Are Staghorn Calculi?
Some stones grow very large and fill the entirety of the kidney collecting system. They are called staghorn calculi (calculus = stone) because they look like antlers. While most kidney stones are made up of calcium oxalate crystals, this type of stone is a composite of struvite, carbonate, and apatite. They are usually the result of recurrent urinary tract infections, in which the bacteria produce ammonia, allowing chemicals in the urine to form the nidus for stone formation.
What Are the Symptoms and Signs of Kidney Stones?
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When a tubular structure is blocked in the body, waves of pain occur as the body tries to unblock the obstruction. These waves of pain are called colic. This is opposed to non-colicky type pain, like that associated with appendicitis or pancreatitis, in which movement causes increased pain and the patient tries to hold very still.
Treating kidney stones is primarily focused on symptom management; passing a stone can be very painful. If a person has a history of kidney stones, home treatment may be suitable. Individuals who have never passed a kidney stone should speak with a doctor.
If hospital treatment is needed, the patient may be rehydrated via an intravenous tube and administered anti-inflammatory medication.
Narcotics are often used in an effort to make the pain of passing the stone tolerable. Antiemetic medication can be used in patients suffering from nausea and vomiting.
In some cases, a urologist can perform a shock wave therapy called lithotripsy - a treatment that will break the kidney stone into smaller pieces and allow it to pass.
Patients with large stones located in regions that do not allow for lithotripsy may receive surgical procedures such as percutaneous nephrolithotomy (removal of the stone via an incision in the back) or ureteroscopic stone removal (removal of the stone via a thin tube into the urethra).
Most kidney stones eventually pass through the urinary tract on their own within 48 hours, with ample fluid intake. Ketorolac (Toradol), an injectable anti-inflammatory drug, and narcotics may be used for pain control when over-the-counter pain control medications are not effective. Toradol, aspirin, and NSAIDs must be avoided if lithotripsy is to be done because of the increased risk of bleeding. Intravenous pain medications can be given when nausea and vomiting are present.
You’re experiencing severe abdominal pain that’s radiating to your lower back. You also notice blood in your urine and a persistent need to urinate, even though you can only urinate small amounts at a time. You have a history of kidney stones and are pretty sure you are experiencing them again. Not wanting to use medications or surgery to treat your kidney stones, you start to look for successful home remedies that dissolve kidney stones naturally and fast. Four treatments look promising:
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Why Do I Get Kidney Stones?
Our kidneys are essential organs that filter out the waste in our bloodstream. The byproduct of this waste is our urine. Stones develop from buildup of mineral deposits in our urine that stick together in the kidneys. Typically, these stones develop because of a lack of water that dilutes the accumulation of these minerals on the lining of our kidneys. Certain medications, medical disorders (e.g., Crohn’s Disease), and a family history of kidney stones can also increase your chances of suffering from them.
Because they are known to cause a great deal of pain, it is no surprise that those who suffer from kidney stones are will to try just about anything to prevent them and to stop them from coming back. Known medicinal treatments include the use of alpha-blockers such as Flomax that relax the lining of the ureter to help stones pass more easily, and medications that treat the associated pain. Additionally, surgical procedures and other non-intrusive means of surgical treatment may be prescribed to break up both calcium oxalate and uric acid kidney stones. These treatments include ureteroscopy and extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL).
Preventative measures used to halt the formation of kidney stones
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While some kidney stones may not produce symptoms (known as "silent" stones), people who have kidney stones often report the sudden onset of excruciating, cramping pain in their low back and/or side, groin, or abdomen. Changes in body position do not relieve this pain. The abdominal, groin, and/or back pain typically waxes and wanes in severity, characteristic of colicky pain (the pain is sometimes referred to as renal colic). It may be so severe that it is often accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The pain has been described by many as the worst pain of their lives, even worse than the pain of childbirth or broken bones. Kidney stones also characteristically cause bloody urine. If infection is present in the urinary tract along with the stones, there may be fever and chills. Sometimes, symptoms such as difficulty urinating, urinary urgency, penile pain, or testicular pain may occur due to kidney stones.
A kidney stone may not cause symptoms until it moves around within your kidney or passes into your ureter — the tube connecting the kidney and bladder. At that point, you may experience these signs and symptoms:
Severe pain in the side and back, below the ribs
Pain that radiates to the lower abdomen and groin
Pain that comes in waves and fluctuates in intensity
Pain on urination
Pink, red or brown urine
Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
Nausea and vomiting
Persistent need to urinate
Urinating more often than usual
Fever and chills if an infection is present
Urinating small amounts
Pain caused by a kidney stone may change — for instance, shifting to a different location or increasing in intensity — as the stone moves through your urinary tract.