Kidney stones are small masses of salt and minerals that get buildup in the kidneys and gradually travel down to the urinary tract. They may vary in size from a small speck to as large as a ping pong ball. About 5% of the people develop kidney stones in their lifetime. Some of the signs and symptoms of kidney pain include pain in the abdomen, blood in urine, etc.
What causes kidney stones?
Kidneys regulate various levels of salts, fluids, minerals and other substances in the body. When there is a change in these levels it leads to the formation of kidney stones. There 4 different types of kidney stones comprising of different substances. Uric acid and Cystine are the 2 main components of kidney stones.
The risk factors that can increase the chances of kidney stones include:
- Family history
- Other medical conditions
Who is likely to get a kidney stone?
Men have a greater risk of being affected by kidney stones than women. Men tend to develop kidney stones in their early 40s and have chances of risk until late 70s. Women have a slightly lesser risk of kidney stones when they are in their 50s.
What are the symptoms of kidney stones?
Most of the kidney stones are painless until they travel down the ureter into the bladder. The pain due to the kidney stones may vary depending upon the size of the stone as it travels the urinary tract. It may range from mild to severe pain.
The common symptoms of kidney stones include the following:
- Blood in urine
- Lower back, abdomen, and sides are frequent sites of pain.
How are kidney stones diagnosed?
The kidney stones are diagnosed by taking a couple of tests such as x-rays called a KUB view (kidney, ureter, and bladder) and also a CT scan. It is mainly diagnosed by excluding other factors that cause abdominal pain and associated symptoms. As these tests involve exposure to low levels of radiation pregnant women should avoid these tests. Instead, they can opt for an ultrasound to diagnose kidney stones.
What are the treatments for kidney stones?
The treatment for kidney stones mainly depends on the size of the stones. The smaller the stone the greater is the
chances that it will be passed out through the urine. Stones of 5 mm in size or even lesser have 20% chance that they do not require any intervention. Stones of 9mm and above cannot be passed out through urine and requires intervention.
The stones that are not passed out from the body are treated by a number of ways. They are:
- One such procedure is called lithotripsy. This procedure uses shock waves to break the stones into smaller pieces so that they are easily expelled out of the body. The device used for this procedure is called a lithotripter.
- Kidney stones can also be removed surgically. This involves a small incision through the skin to remove the kidney stones. This procedure is called as Percutaneous nephrolithotomy.
- It can also be removed with help of a ureteroscope, an instrument that is advanced up through the urethra, bladder, and the ureter.
How can kidney stones be prevented?
- The main cause for kidney stones is dehydration. So hydrate your body frequently with 6 to 7 liters of water every day.
- Grape juice is suspected of developing kidney stones. So it better to avoid that.
- Diet can influence kidney stones in many ways.
- Higher than recommended amounts of vitamin D, C, salt, proteins and foods rich in oxalate that is dark green vegetables can increase the risk of kidney stones.
- Body weight is also related to kidney stones. A person with high BMI is at greater risk of being affected by kidney stones.