Kidney stones, also known as renal lithiasis or renal calculi, are hard deposits of crystalline minerals, salts, uric acid, and calcium that form inside the kidneys or urinary tract. They can travel throughout the urinary system and cause severe pain.
Each kidney stone can be as tiny as a grain of salt or as big as a corn kernel. One in every 20 people develops kidney stones at some point in their life, though they are more common in men.
Kidney stones form when the body is not well hydrated. The urine becomes concentrated, decreases in volume, and has an excess of stone-forming substances. This helps the tiny crystals to stick together to form larger stones.
What Are the Symptoms of Kidney Stones?
Symptoms usually occur when the stone moves into the ureter – the tube connecting the kidney to the bladder through which urine passes. Kidney stones are typically painful, though not always.
Symptoms usually occur when stones move around within the kidney or travel into the ureter, thereby causing:
- Pain in back, belly, or side
- Burning and pain while urinating
- Blood in the urine
- Constant urge to urinate
- Nausea and vomiting
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
- Fever and chills
Most kidney stones are evacuated through the urine without treatment. Those that remain lodged in the urinary tract will require medical attention, which can include surgery. Once the stone has passed or has been removed, the pain will go away completely.
Causes of Kidney Stones
In addition to simple dehydration, several factors can increase the risk of developing stones in the kidneys. These factors may be genetic, physiological, from infections, or from the diet.
If kidney stones run in the family, or if you have had it before, you’re more likely to develop kidney stones. You will also have a higher risk if you have diabetes or gout, or if you are obese.
Chronic diarrhea, gastric bypass surgery, and inflammatory bowel disease can all affect digestion and the absorption of calcium and water, thus increasing the volume of stone-forming substances in the urine.
Other diseases, conditions, and factors that may increase your risk of developing kidney stones include:
- Certain medications
- Cystinuria (high concentrations of the amino acid cysteine in the urine)
- Hyperparathyroidism (excess parathyroid hormone in the bloodstream)
- Renal tubular acidosis (excess levels of acid in the blood)
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Foods that Contribute to Kidney Stones
Animal proteins found in chicken, eggs, red meats, and seafood can build up calcium and uric acid, thereby contributing to the development of a kidney stone. Also, drinking colas that have a high amount of fructose and phosphate can put you at risk of this condition.
Oxalates are organic compounds found in many foods, including spinach and sweet potatoes, which bind to certain minerals such as calcium. Salt can also create extra calcium levels in the urine, and excessive sugar in the diet is as risky as too much sodium.
Diagnosis and Treatment of a Kidney Stone
Kidney stones usually cause no permanent damage if they’re diagnosed and treated in time. Diagnosis is accomplished using an ultrasound, intravenous pyleography (IVP), or a CT scan.
There may be no need for treatment other than medication and hydration. If stones become lodged in the urinary tract, occur due to a urinary infection, or cause other complications, a lithotripsy procedure (sound waves to break up the stones) or surgery may be needed.
Urologic Specialists in Mesa
Adopting the right kidney-friendly diet, hydrating properly, and following your doctor’s instructions are important for maintaining a healthy body. Always remember to stay hydrated, especially while exercising or if you’re in a hot environment for any length of time.
If you or a loved one is suffering from kidney stone issues, or if you want more information about urological conditions and expert treatments, call Urologic Surgeons of Arizona at (480) 409-5060, or request an appointment online. We look forward to helping you feel healthy and live the active lifestyle you enjoy.