Kidney stones are actually crystals of different salts that get impacted in ureter or kidneys or anywhere in the urinary system leading to a variety of complaints and complications. Before going into the details of kidney stones (which are also called nephrolithiasis) it is important to know how kidney stones are formed.
Different types of kidney stones:
Kidney stones are formed when the levels of certain salt exceed the excretion capacity of kidney. Following are the most common types of kidney stones that exist in nature:
- Calcium stones are perhaps the most common type of kidney stones and are seen in diseases of endocrine glands like parathyroid over-secretion, vitamin D over-dosage, calcium supplementation or diseases of small intestine that interfere with the absorption of Calcium.
- Struvite stones are largest of all kidney stones and occur more commonly in women. These have a strong association with long standing, untreated urinary tract infections.
- Uric acid stones are also fairly common among women, especially those who have joint diseases like Gout, Pseudogout and health conditions in which cellular turnover is increased like chemotherapy, cancerous growth and others.
- Bilirubin stones are seen in chronic hemolytic anemia in which liver cannot excrete all breakdown products by stool and thus excess is excreted by kidney leading to bilirubin stones.
Typical symptoms of kidney stones:
Extra salts like calcium, Bilirubin, uric acid or others that cannot be reabsorbed by initial kidney segments is excreted to lower segments where they combine with other negatively charged ions like oxalate, carbonate to form salt/crystal and get deposited in kidney. With urine these salts may dislodge and get into the narrow tubes of ureters and urinary bladder, where they may cause:
- Bleeding: This type of symptom is mostly seen with Struvite stones as these are large and damage walls of ureters during their passage through ureters causing bleeding
- Colic: when stone passes through the ureters or kidney, one could experience intense pain (often referred as colic). It could manifest as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain or pelvic pain
- Infection: Long standing stones that are impacted in narrow ureters may lead to bacterial infection, manifested by chills and fever. Partial or complete blockage by the stones may block the ureters partially and builds up urine in the kidney leading to hydronephrosis and long standing cases may even lead to renal failure.
Treatment for kidney stones:
If you experience any of the symptoms above, you should see a physician first to determine if your symptoms are indeed related to kidney stones. Your doctor is best positioned to diagnose what the problem is, so don’t come to any self conclusions. Don’t be scared if you are told you have kidney stones. There are a number of effective treatment options that are available to help remove kidney stones safely. Depending on the condition, your doctor may suggest medication, laser therapy, or other non invasive procedures like lithotripsy or if nothing works, then surgery.
How to prevent kidney stones from forming:
However to avoid the formation of kidney stones in the first place, following tips are very helpful:
- A simple solution is to drink plenty of water. Ideally you should consume more than 1.5 to 2 liters of fluid or about 7 to 12 glasses of water.
- It is very important to form more than 0.5 liters of urine each day, so in hot days increase your water intake (to make up for the fluid loss by sweat)
- Eat a balanced plant based diet.
- If you have any of the above risk factor for the development of certain type of kidney stones, consult your physician for modification of diet or drug regimen.