What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones are solid crystals formed from the salts in urine. They are sometimes called renal calculi. Kidney stones can block the flow of urine and cause infection, kidney damage or even kidney failure.
They can vary in size and location. The risk of kidney stones is about one in 10 for men and one in 35 for women. Between four and eight percent of the Australian population suffer from kidney stones at any time. After having one kidney stone, the chance of getting a second stone is between five and 10 per cent
each year. Thirty to fifty per cent of people with a first kidney stone will get a second stone within five years. After five years, the risk declines. However, some people keep getting stones their whole lives.
Types of kidney stones
- Stones formed from calcium not used by the bones and muscles, combined with oxalate or phosphate – these are the most common kidney stones
- Stones containing magnesium and the waste product ammonia – these are called struvite stones and form after urine infections uric acid stones – these are often caused by eating very large amounts of protein foods cystine stones – these are rare and hereditary.
Symptoms of kidney stones
A kidney stone usually remains symptom-less until it moves into the urethra. When symptoms of kidney stone become apparent, they commonly include:
- vomiting and nausea
- severe pain in the groin and/or side
- blood in urine
- cloudy or bad-smelling urine
- white blood cells or pus in the urine
- reduced amount of urine excreted
- an urgent feeling of needing to urinate, due to a stone at the bladder outlet
- burning sensation during urination
- fever and chills if there is an infection
- persistent urge to urinate
Causes of kidney stones A kidney stone can form when substances such as calcium, oxalate, cystine or uric acid are at high levels in the urine, although stones can form even if these chemicals are at normal levels. Medications used for treating some medical conditions such as kidney disease, cancer or HIV can also increase your risk of developing kidney stones. A small number of people get kidney stones because of certain medical conditions that lead to high levels of calcium, oxalate, cystine or uric acid in the body.
Diagnosis of kidney stones many kidney stones are discovered by chance during examinations for other conditions. Urine and blood tests can help with finding out the cause of the stone. Further tests may include: ultrasound CT scans x-rays, including an intravenous pyelogram (IVP), where dye is injected into the bloodstream before the x-rays are taken.
If you pass a stone, collect it and take it to your doctor for analysis. Analysis of stone can help to determine what type it is, what caused it to form, what treatment to provide, and how to prevent the formation of further stones in the future.
Complications of kidney stones Kidney stones can range in size from a grain of sand to that of a pearl or even larger. They can be smooth and are usually yellow or brown. A large stone may get stuck in the urinary system. This can block the flow of urine and may cause strong pain. Kidney stones can cause permanent kidney damage. Stones also increase the risk of urinary and kidney infection, which can result in germs spreading into the bloodstream.
Avoiding recurrence of kidney stones
If you have had one kidney stone, some tips that may help to prevent a second stone-forming include:
- Do not stop your medications without talking to your doctor. Get quick and proper treatment of urinary infections.
- Avoid dehydration.
- Drink enough fluids to keep your urine volume at or above two liters a day. This can halve your risk of getting a second stone by lowering the concentration of stone-forming chemicals in your urine.
- Avoid drinking too much tea or coffee. Juices may reduce the risk of some stones, particularly orange, grapefruit, and cranberry.
- Reduce your salt intake to lower the risk of calcium-containing stones. Don’t add salt while cooking and leave the saltshaker off the table.
- Choose low- or no-salt processed foods.
- Always talk to your doctor before making changes to your diet.
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, an individual may be rehydrated via an intravenous (IV) tube, and anti-inflammatory medication may also be administered.
Narcotics are often used in an effort to make the pain of passing the stone tolerable. Antiemetic medication can be used in people experiencing nausea and vomiting.
In some cases, a urologist can perform a shock wave therapy called lithotripsy. This is a treatment that breaks the kidney stone into smaller pieces and allows it to pass.
People with large stones located in regions that do not allow for lithotripsy should receive surgical operations such as removal of the stone via an incision in the back or by inserting a thin tube into the urethra.
There are several foods that have a positive impact on kidney health. These can help reduce both the risk and impact of kidney stones. The body naturally passes the stone within 48 to 72 hours.
Kidney beans are one such option. Boil the pods inside the beans for around six hours, strain the liquid, and allow this liquid to cool. People with kidney stones should consume this liquid every 2 hours over the course of 1 to 2 days.
Other foods that can protect the kidneys are:
Vitamin B6 supplements and pyroxidine supplements have also been recommended as effective treatments. Vitamin B6 supplements is also recommended