Everything you need to know about kidney stones
Kidney stones, also known as renal calculi, are hard, mineral, and salt deposits that form in the kidneys. They can vary in size and shape, ranging from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. Kidney stones can develop in one or both kidneys and cause significant pain and discomfort when they obstruct the urinary tract.
According to Guinness World Records, the biggest kidney stone ever recorded was only over 5 inches at its broadest point. Moreover, it is estimated that 12% of Americans will be diagnosed with a kidney stone during their lifetime; the incidence is growing.
Composition of Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are primarily composed of different substances, including:
Calcium oxalate: This is the most common type of kidney stone. It forms when calcium combines with oxalate, a substance found in some foods and produced by the liver.
Uric Acid: Uric acid stones are formed when there is an excess of uric acid in the urine. They are often associated with conditions such as gout or high-purine diets.
Struvite: These stones are usually the result of urinary tract infections. They can grow rapidly and become quite large.
Cystine: Cystine stones are rare and are caused by a genetic disorder called cystinuria. This disorder causes the kidneys to excrete excessive amounts of the amino acid cystine, leading to stone formation.
Causes of Kidney Stones
The exact cause of kidney stones is often multifactorial, but certain factors increase the risk of developing them. The reasons for kidney stones are discussed below:
Dehydration: Insufficient fluid intake can lead to concentrated urine, increasing the risk of stone formation.
Dietary Factors: Consuming a diet high in sodium, oxalate, or purines (found in certain foods like organ meats and shellfish) can contribute to the development of kidney stones.
Family History: Having a family history of kidney stones increases the likelihood of developing them.
Certain Medical Conditions: Conditions like hyperparathyroidism, urinary tract infections, renal tubular acidosis, and inflammatory bowel disease can increase the risk of kidney stones.
Obesity: Being overweight or obese can contribute to the formation of kidney stones.
Certain Medications: Some medications, such as diuretics, antacids containing calcium, and certain antibiotics, can increase the risk of stone formation.
Age and Gender: Kidney stones are more common in individuals between the ages of 30 and 60, and men are more prone to developing them than women.
Geographical Factors: Certain geographical locations have a higher prevalence of kidney stones due to factors like climate and water composition.
Previous History of Kidney Stones: Individuals who have had kidney stones in the past are at a higher risk of developing new stones.
Inadequate water intake: Water intake is the most significant dietary risk factor for kidney stones. The patients should drink adequate water to form 2.5 liters (approximately 10.5 cups) of urine per day. Alternatively, they can try keeping their urine clear to very pale yellow.”
To accurately diagnose kidney stones, the best nephrologist in Patna may perform the following tests:
Imaging tests: X-rays, CT scans, or ultrasound can help visualize the presence, size, and location of kidney stones.
Urine Analysis: Testing a urine sample can detect the presence of blood, crystals, or signs of infection associated with kidney stones.
The treatment of kidney stones depends on various factors, including the size, location, and composition of the stones, as well as the severity of kidney stone symptoms. Treatment options include:
Drinking plenty of fluids to promote urine production and flushing out the stones.
Pain management using over-the-counter or prescription medications
Dietary modifications to reduce the intake of substances that contribute to stone formation.
Medications may be prescribed to help dissolve certain types of kidney stones or prevent the formation of new stones. The best hospital in Patna will prescribe accurate medications based on your symptoms of kidney stones.
Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL): Shock waves are used to break the stones into smaller pieces for easier passage.
Ureteroscopy: A thin tube is inserted through the urethra and bladder to remove or break up stones located in the ureter or kidney.
Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL): a surgical procedure that involves making a small incision in the back to remove larger stones from the kidney.
Laser lithotripsy: A laser is used to break the stones into smaller fragments, which are then removed or passed naturally. You can consult the best kidney doctor in Patna to avail laser lithotripsy treatment to effectively treat your kidney stone symptoms.
Prevention strategies play a crucial role in reducing the risk of recurrent kidney stones. Here are some measures that can help prevent the formation of kidney stones:
Stay Hydrated: Drinking an adequate amount of fluids is one of the most important preventive measures for kidney stones. Aim to drink enough water to produce at least 2–2.5 liters (about 8–10 cups) of urine per day. Sufficient hydration helps dilute urine and prevents the concentration of minerals that can lead to stone formation.
Limit Sodium Intake: High sodium levels in the diet can increase the amount of calcium excreted in the urine, contributing to stone formation. Reduce your consumption of processed foods, fast food, and excessive salt in meals.
Watch oxalate-rich foods: Some kidney stones are composed of calcium oxalate. If you have been diagnosed with calcium oxalate stones, it may be helpful to limit or moderate your intake of oxalate-rich foods, such as spinach, rhubarb, beets, chocolate, nuts, and tea.
Moderate Animal Protein: Consuming excessive animal protein, especially from red meat and poultry, can increase the risk of uric acid stones. Limit your intake of animal protein and consider incorporating more plant-based protein sources.
Control Purine-rich foods: high purine levels in the diet can lead to uric acid stone formation. Reduce your consumption of purine-rich foods like organ meats, shellfish, and certain types of fish (such as anchovies and sardines).
Increase Citrate Intake: Citrate helps prevent the formation of certain types of kidney stones. Citrus fruits, such as lemons and oranges, are excellent sources of citrate. Consider adding fresh citrus juices or lemon slices to your water or incorporating citrus fruits into your diet.
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight: Obesity and being overweight have been linked to an increased risk of kidney stones. Adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and a balanced diet can help maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of stone formation.
Limit Oxalate-rich Beverages: Beverages such as tea, coffee, and certain fruit juices (like cranberry and grapefruit) may contain high levels of oxalate. Limiting your consumption of these beverages or opting for low-oxalate alternatives can be beneficial for individuals prone to calcium oxalate stones.
Medications: In some cases, nephrologists may prescribe medications to help prevent the formation of kidney stones. These medications may include thiazide diuretics to reduce calcium excretion, allopurinol to lower uric acid levels, or potassium citrate to increase urine citrate levels. The use of medications will depend on the specific type and underlying causes of the kidney stones
Kidney stones can lead to various complications, including:
Urinary Tract Obstruction: A kidney stone can cause a blockage in the urinary tract, leading to severe pain, infection, or kidney damage.
Infection: If a stone obstructs the urinary tract and prevents proper urine flow, it can increase the risk of urinary tract infections.
Kidney Damage: Prolonged or recurrent kidney stone episodes can result in kidney damage or loss of kidney function.
It is important to seek medical attention if you experience:
Severe pain that is not relieved by over-the-counter pain medications.
Persistent or worsening symptoms such as blood in the urine, fever, or chills.
Inability to pass urine or experiencing intense pain when trying to urinate.