If you have a kidney stone, you are not alone. According to recent studies, one in 11 Americans will have a kidney stone at some point in their lifetime, and the condition is considerably more prevalent now than in prior decades.
The reasons for kidney stones do vary, and certain risk factors can make developing them more likely. Let’s talk about what they are and how you can avoid developing them.
What Is a Kidney Stone?
The urinary tract is our body’s drainage system for removing liquid waste and excess fluid in the form of urine. Each of us has two kidneys (unless one of them has been removed), and they are each connected to a ureter – which is a thin tube that carries urine to the bladder. The urine then exits the bladder and out of the body through the urethra.
That’s how it is supposed to work.
Urine is made up of many dissolved minerals and salts, which in high levels – if not dissolved enough – can build up inside the kidney and form kidney stones. These tiny “stones” can start off very small, and some are carried out of the body in the urine without causing any discomfort.
However, larger stones can become lodged as they travel down the ureter. If this happens, the kidney stone can block the flow of urine, which can cause severe pain.
How Do Kidney Stones Form?
There are several main ways in which you can develop a kidney stone, including the following:
The main cause of kidney stones is a lack of water in the body. This can occur as a result of dehydration from not drinking enough or from excessive sweating and not replenishing the lost fluids.
A low volume of urine when urinating means it is concentrated and does not have enough fluid to dissolve the minerals and salts in the kidneys. By increasing your fluid intake, particularly if you live or work in a hot climate or engage in strenuous exercise, you will dilute the minerals and salts in your urine and therefore reduce your risk of getting kidney stones.
Too much salt in the diet is also a risk factor for kidney stones, because it stops calcium from being absorbed properly into the body – causing it to build in your urine, leading to stones developing. Reducing salt in your diet therefore helps to lower urine calcium and the chances of stone formation.
A diet high in animal protein, such as beef, chicken, and pork, can raise your chances of kidney stones, because uric acid is used to break down meat. High levels of acid in the body and in the urine raises the chance that both calcium and uric acid stones will develop.
Certain bowel conditions that cause diarrhea (such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis) can result in the loss of large amounts of fluid from the body, thereby lowering urine volume. This raises the risk of forming calcium-oxalate kidney stones.
Being very overweight is also a risk factor for developing kidney stones. That is because this medical condition can change the acid levels in the urine, leading to stone formation.
Symptoms of Kidney Stones
A kidney stone doesn’t usually cause symptoms until it moves into the ureter and becomes stuck. Common symptoms of kidney stones include:
- Severe abdominal pain, usually on one side
- Blood in the urine
- Frequent urge to urinate
- A burning sensation during urination
Expert Urological Care in Mesa, Arizona
Here at Urologic Surgeons of Arizona, we diagnose and treat many different conditions and disorders affecting the urinary tract, including kidney stones. We also treat men’s health issues and sexual dysfunction.