A common ailment among people of all ages, kidney stones are a more common occurrence than we realize. Most of the times, the stones pass through the body without causing many complications, but sometimes, the situation needs to be dealt with by a kidney doctor or a specialist in nephrology.
About Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are hard deposits that are made of minerals and salts and may form inside your kidneys. There are many causes that might lead to the formation of kidney stones and affect any part of the urinary tract, all the way from your kidneys to your bladder. Often, when your urine becomes more concentrated, it allows minerals to crystalize and stick together, leading to the formation of kidney stones.
In most cases, passing kidney stones can end up being quite painful, but if they have been recognized in a timely manner, they do not cause any permanent damage. In fact, sometimes, taking pain medication and drinking a lot of water is all you need to do to pass a kidney stone. In other instances, like when the stones have lodged in your urinary track, or when they are associated with urinary infections, or when they are causing complications, you might need to consult with a nephrology specialist or kidney doctor and opt for surgery to deal with them.
Once they have been removed, if you are at an increased risk of a recurrence, your kidney specialist might suggest some preventive measures. You need to be well aware about the types of kidney stones, the risk factors, and kidney stone symptoms, so you can visit a kidney hospital and deal with them at the right time without having to deal with many complications.
Different Types of Kidney Stones
Knowing about the type of kidney stones you have can help you determine the cause and can give you an idea about how to reduce your risk factors of getting more stones. The different types of kidney stones are as follows:
- Calcium stones: Most commonly, kidney stones are calcium stones, and are usually in the form of calcium oxalate. Oxalate is a natural substance that is produced everyday by your liver and is found in food, like some fruits, vegetables, nuts, and chocolate.
There are several factors, like some metabolic disorders, intestinal bypass surgery, dietary habits, and high doses of vitamin D that can lead to an increase in the concentration of oxalate or calcium in the urine. Another common form of calcium stones is calcium phosphate. This type of stone is more commonly seen with metabolic conditions like renal tubular acidosis, or with certain migraine headaches, or when you are on seizure medication.
- Struvite stones: Struvite stones are formed in response to infections, such as urinary tract infections. These stones can grow quite quickly and can become quite large. Sometimes, they show very few kidney stone symptoms and give little warning before creating complications.
- Uric acid stones: People who don’t drink enough fluids or lose too many fluids, those who follow high protein diets, and those who have gout are at a high risk of developing uric acid stones. Then there are certain genetic factors which may also increase your risk of getting uric acid stones.
- Cystine stones: These stones are seen in people suffering from cystinuria, a hereditary disorder that causes the kidneys to excrete certain amino acids in an excess amount.
There are certain factors that may increase your risk of developing kidney stones:
- Family or personal history: You are at a higher risk of developing kidney stones if someone in your family has had them too. Also, if you’ve already suffered from kidney stones once, you are at a higher risk of developing another.
- Dehydration: People living in warmer climates, people who sweat a lot, and people who do not drink enough water throughout the day are at an increased risk of developing kidney stones as compared to others.
- Certain diets: Eating certain types of diets can also result in a higher risk of developing stones. While high levels of protein and sugar contribute to the risk, there is a higher chance of developing stones if you follow a high sodium diet. This is because too much salt in the diet leads to an increase in the amount of calcium that must be filtered out by the kidneys, which significantly increases your risk of kidney stones.
- Obesity: Having a high body mass index (BMI), weight gain, and a large waist size have been linked to an observed increase in the risk of kidney stones.
- Digestive diseases and surgeries: Chronic diarrhoea, inflammatory bowel disease, gastric bypass surgeries, or anything that causes a change in your digestive process affects the absorption of calcium and water, which in turn increases the levels of stone forming substances in the urine.
- Other medical conditions: Some diseases and conditions like renal tubular acidosis, hyperparathyroidism, cystinuria, certain medications, and some urinary tract infections may increase your risk as well.
Symptoms of Kidney Stones
Early detection and treatment play a major role in getting rid of kidney stones without complications. Hence, it is very important that you are well aware of the symptoms that may indicate stones, so you can fix up an appointment at a kidney hospital on time. However, you need to remember that a stone may not cause any kidney stone symptoms till the time it moves within the kidney or is passed into the ureter (the tube that connects the bladder and the kidney). This is when you might experience the following signs and symptoms of kidney stones:
- Severe pain in your side and back, below your ribs
- A pain that radiates to your lower abdomen and groin
- Pain that comes in waves and may fluctuate in intensity
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
- Pink, red, or brown urine
- Pain when you urinate
- Nausea and vomiting
- A persistent need to urinate, urinating more often than you usually do, or urinating in small amounts
- If an infection has occurred, you may experience fever and chills
- The pain that is caused by a kidney stone may change. For instance, it may shift to a different location or increase in intensity as the stone moves through the urinary tract.
If you start experiencing severe pain that you can’t sit still or find a comfortable position, or if the pain is accompanied by nausea and vomiting or fever and chills, if you have difficulty in urinating or notice blood in your urine, you must contact a nephrology or kidney hospital immediately.