Kidney stones are hard deposits- that form inside your kidney. It is a common and ancient problem. Even they were found in Egyptian mummies. They are also called renal calculi, urolithiasis, or nephrolithiasis (lithiasis meaning- the formation of stony concentrations). Among the many causes of kidney stones- diet, excess body weight, some medical conditions, certain supplements, and medications are the few causes that may lead to kidney stones. Most stones form when the urine becomes concentrated. This may lead minerals to get crystallize and stick together. Kidney stones can affect any part of the urinary tract.
What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones are hard deposits of minerals and or acid salts that stick together in concentrated urine and grow over time. They are formed in the kidneys. As per a study it was stated that the occurrence of kidney stones in male patients is nearly twice that of female patients. The National Health and Nutrition Survey estimated that 19% of male patients and 9% of female patients generally get kidney stone problems as they reach 70 years of age.
Kidney stones are formed- when your urine contains more crystal-forming substances like- calcium, oxalate, and uric acid than the fluid in your urine. Or your urine lacks the substances that prevent crystals from sticking together.
Types of kidney stones.
To know- the type of kidney stone, you can get it analyzed through your healthcare provider. Knowing the type of kidney stone may help you to reduce further risk of developing more kidney stones. Following are the types of kidney stones:-
Calcium stones:- In most people, kidney stones are in the form of calcium stones. Calcium stones can be in the form of calcium phosphate or calcium oxalate. Mostly calcium stones consist of calcium oxalate. Oxalate is absorbed from the diet and your liver daily produces oxalate. Few oxalate-rich foods are- spinach, rhubarb, almonds, cashews, miso soup, baked potatoes with skin, beets, cocoa powder, etc. Several metabolic disorders can increase calcium and oxalate levels in urine. Certain medications like- loop diuretics ( furosemide, acetazolamide), some antacids, glucocorticosteroids ( dexamethasone), theophylline, etc. may raise the chances of calcium stones and can be the causes of kidney stones formation.
Struvite stones:- The struvite stones are formed due to UTI (urinary tract infection). They grow very quickly and become large. They are made up of magnesium ammonium phosphate.
Uric acid stones:– Uric acid stones are formed in people who consume a high protein diet, or people with diabetes or metabolic syndrome (a metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions like- high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels that may increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes). Uric acid stones are also formed in people who lose too much fluid as a result of diarrhea or malabsorption. Certain genetic factors are also responsible for the formation of uric acid stones.
Cystine stones:- Cystine stones are formed in people with a rare hereditary disorder- cystinuria. Due to this kidneys excrete too much amino acid – cysteine.
What are the causes and risk factors for kidney stones?
There are various causes of kidney stones formation. Kidney stones formation does not have a single specific cause. Irrespective of the type of kidney stone- dehydration is considered a major risk factor. Due to the rise in global temperature the risk may increase. As more humans are exposed to dehydration. A randomized trial has shown that consuming 2 liters of fluid per day may decrease the risk of kidney stones to half. The guidelines issued by The American Urological Association suggest that patients with chances of kidney stones should consume more than 2.5 liters of fluid per day. Factors that may increase the risk of formation of kidney stones include:-
Dehydration:- People living in warm climates, people who sweat a lot, and people who do not drink enough water are at increased risk of getting kidney stones.
Family history:- Persons with a family history of kidney stones are more likely to the formation of kidney stones. More if you already had kidney stones, you are at an increased risk of getting kidney stones.
Obesity:- Obese people are at more risk of developing kidney stones.
Dietary habits:- Certain dietary habits increases the risk of kidney stone formation. Consuming diets that are high in protein, sodium(salt), and sugar may increase the risk of kidney stones formation. Too much salt in your diet may increase the calcium level in your kidneys- which they(kidneys) are unable to filter. This may increase the chances of stones formation.
Digestive diseases and surgery:– Gastric bypass surgery, chronic diarrhea, or inflammatory bowel disease may impact the normal digestive process. As a result, the absorption of calcium and water gets affected- resulting in an increase in levels of stone-forming substances in the urine.
Certain health conditions:- Health conditions like- renal tubular acidosis (when kidneys can not remove the required amount of acids from the blood), cystinuria (condition when cysteine amino acids form stones in kidneys), hyperparathyroidism (when parathyroid glands produce too much parathyroid hormone in the blood), and repeated urinary tract infections may increase the chances of developing kidney stones.
Certain medications and supplements:- Dietary supplements, laxatives ( excessive quantity), calcium-based antacids, and a few medicines used to treat migraines or depression may increase your risk of developing kidney stones.
What are the causes of different types of stones formation and how to prevent them?
Kidney stones are very painful. They generally do not cause permanent damage, if identified in the early stages, and taking precautions may help to prevent further occurrences. Following are the few causes, and the preventive measures to be adopted for different types of kidney stones:-
Calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate stones
Calcium stones are one of the most common types of kidney stones. Good hydration is the important key to preventing them. It is a misconception in many people’s minds that consumption of calcium may lead to calcium stones formation. Clinical trials have shown that people with calcium kidney stones should not cut back on diets providing calcium. But they should fulfill their daily requirements of calcium through the diet. Calcium binds with oxalate in the intestine and helps it pass through stools. As a result, there is less urine to form stones. Before consuming calcium supplements- consult your healthcare provider.
Diet rich in oxalate such as nuts, potatoes, chocolate, tea, spinach, etc. should be consumed in moderation. As they may lead to increased levels of oxalate in urine. Which can increase the risk of calcium stone formation.
Uric acid stones
Generally, people with uric acid kidney stones do not have too much uric acid. But their urine becomes too much acidic in nature. It leads to the dissolution of uric acid in their urine. Which may get crystallize into uric acid stones. Adjusting the pH value of urine with medications like- potassium citrate can help in reducing the risk of stone formation. Even it can help in dissolving the existing uric acid stones. Some people produce high amounts of uric acid- which can result in stone formation. Reducing animal protein intake can help in these cases.
Struvite kidney stones are formed – when urine becomes alkaline in nature. The main common cause is a bacterial infection. Which turns the pH value to neutral or alkaline. The average pH value of urine is 6. It can range from 4.6 to 8. Reducing pH value can help in lowering the risk of stone formation and dissolving the already existing struvite stones.
The formation of cystine kidney stones- is a genetic condition. These are formed due to high levels of cysteine amino acids in urine. These can be managed by increasing hydration levels or using medications to change the pH value of urine.
What are the symptoms of kidney stones?
Kidney stones usually do not have any symptoms till it moves around in the kidneys or passes into the ureters ( the tube connecting the kidneys and urinary bladder). In case, if the stone gets blocked in the ureter, it may impact the flow of urine from the kidneys to the bladder. In such a situation, kidneys use to get swollen. It is very painful. The following symptoms may appear.
- There is severe pain in the side and back, below the ribs.
- There is pain or burning sensation while urinating.
- Person experiences pain- which comes in waves with fluctuating intensity.
- Pain radiates to the lower abdomen and groin.
The location and intensity of pain may change and depends upon the movement of the stone. A few other signs can be:-
- Urine may become cloudy or foul-smelling.
- Urine color may change to pink, red, or brown.
- There may be a persistent need to urinate, urinating in small amounts.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- In case of infection, there may be fever and chills.
How to prevent kidney stones?
Many risk factors associated with the formation of kidney stones can be modified – irrespective of the type of stones. Following are a few suggestions that may help in preventing the formation of kidney stones.
Consume optimum quantity of water
Consuming less water or fluid may decrease urine output. Which will increase the concentration of minerals and salts that can lead to stone formation. Sugary drinks should also be avoided- as they may also increase kidney stone formation.
Limit the consumption of salt
The excretion of calcium depends upon the concentration of sodium. High levels of sodium may increase the amount of calcium in the urine. Which may lead to kidney stone formation. Limiting the consumption of sodium or salt in a diet can help in preventing stone formation.
Adding more seasonal fruits and vegetables in diet
Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, especially those rich in potassium can help in reducing the risk of kidney stone formation. Few potassium-rich foods are- bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, orange, and papaya.
Consult your healthcare provider.
Consult with your physician about your medical conditions. Certain medical conditions like- high blood pressure, gout, diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease may increase your chances of developing kidney stones. Certain medicines can also increase the risk of kidney stone formation.
Maintaining hydration levels and timely consultation with your healthcare provider can help you in getting prevention from kidney stone formation.
For awareness purposes only.
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