The kidneys are fist-sized bean-sized organs located in your back on either side of your spine in the upper abdominal area. They maintain the body’s fluid and chemical levels. People have two kidneys and they help to clean waste from the blood and flushes it out through urine. They also control sodium, potassium and calcium levels in the blood.
They help in regulating and filtering of minerals from the blood and in creating hormones which produce red blood cells, improves bone health, and also regulates blood pressure.
What Are Kidney Stones?
Urine comprises many minerals and salts dissolved in it. When these minerals and salts are high in your urine, they form solid masses called kidney stones. Usually, they generate in your kidney or they can develop anywhere in the urinary tract which includes ureters, bladder and urethra. The size of kidney stones varies which starts as a small crystal deposit and can grow larger in size. They are also called renal calculi which can fill the inner hollow space of the kidney.
In some people, stones stay in their kidneys without causing any problems. Sometimes, these stones travel down the ureter and reach the bladder. When the stone reaches the bladder, it might pass out through the urine. Well, the problem arises when the stone becomes stuck in the ureter blocking the urine flow and causes pain. Kidney stones are among the most painful medical conditions.
Do I Have Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones might not cause any symptoms until unless they move around within your kidney or travel into your ureter. In such cases, the pain will be severe and is called renal colic. You may experience pain in one side of your back or below the ribs. The pain may come and go and in men, it can radiate to the groin area.
Some other signs and symptoms you should be aware of to know whether you have kidney stones include:
- Pain that radiates from the kidneys to the lower abdomen and groin
- Pain while urination
- Pink, red or brown coloured urine
- Foul-smelling urine
- Frequent urination
- Urinating more number of times than usual
- Fever and chills in case of an infection
- Urination in small amounts
Small kidney stones may not cause any pain or symptoms and they might pass through your urinary tract.
What Are The Causes Of Kidney Stones?
A kidney stone can form anyone and there is no definite, single cause of kidney stones. Men are more likely to get kidney stones than women do. Kidney stones are formed when there is more crystal-forming substances in your urine such as calcium, oxalate and uric acid. Lack of substances that prevent the formation of these crystals sticking together helps to create an ideal environment to form kidney stones.
Types of kidney stones
There are different types of kidney stones and knowing the type of stone can help to determine the cause and easy to provide early treatment.
- Calcium stones
- Struvite stones
- Uric acid stones
- Cystine stones
The causes and risks of forming kidney stones include:
- Having had kidney stones before.
- Not drinking enough water
- High protein, sodium or sugar diet
- Overweight or obese
- Having had gastric bypass surgery or any other intestinal surgery
- Having cystic kidney diseases
- Hyperparathyroid condition
- Inflammatory bowel diseases
- Taking certain medicines, such as triamterene diuretics (water pills) or
- anti seizure drugs or calcium-based antacids
Treatment For Kidney Stones
The kidney stone treatment depends on the size of the stone, type of stone, whether the condition causes pain and the stones blocking the urinary tract etc. There are different types of treatments and a kidney stone specialist suggest the treatment option based on your condition.
Usually, Kidney stones pass on their own without causing any problems after some weeks. During this time you should drink lot of water and need pain medication.
Medication: Certain medication is required for pain relief, treat infections with antibiotics. Some other medications allopurinol for uric acid stones, thiazide diuretics to treat calcium stones etc.
If the stones are large enough that can’t be cured with medication certain surgical options are preferred which include:
Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy(ESWL): It is a procedure where the sound waves are used to break large stones so they can pass easily down the ureters into your bladder.
Ureteroscopy (URS): This a procedure that involves passing a ureteroscope(telescope) into the bladder, up the ureter and into your kidney to remove stones.
Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL): Here a half-inch incision is made in the backside to allow a rigid telescope into the kidney to remove large kidney stones.
Open surgery: This is the final treatment option when other procedures can’t remove the stones or when the stones are oversized.