Kidney stones: Causes, symptoms, and treatment

Kidney stones are the result of a buildup of dissolved minerals on the inner lining of the kidneys.

They usually consist of calcium oxalate but may be composed of several other compounds.

Kidney stones can grow to the size of a golf ball while maintaining a sharp, crystalline structure.

The stones may be small and pass unnoticed through the urinary tract, but they can also cause extreme pain as they leave the body.

Symptoms

Kidney stones
Kidney stones result from a build up of minerals.

A kidney stone usually remains symptomless until it moves into the ureter. When symptoms of kidney stones become apparent, they commonly include:

severe pain in the groin and/or side

blood in urine

vomiting and nausea

white blood cells or pus in the urine

reduced amount of urine excreted

burning sensation during urination

persistent urge to urinate

fever and chills if there is an infection

Complications

Kidney stones that remain inside the body can also lead to many complications, including blockage of the the tube connecting the kidney to the bladder, which obstructs the path that urine uses to leave the body.

According to research, people with kidney stones have a significantly higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease.

Causes

Kidney stones and ruler
Kidney stones can vary in size. Some have been known to grow as large as golf balls.

The leading cause of kidney stones is a lack of water in the body.

Stones are more commonly found in individuals who drink less than the recommended eight to ten glasses of water a day.

When there is not enough water to dilute the uric acid, a component of urine, the urine becomes more acidic.

An excessively acidic environment in urine can lead to the formation of kidney stones.

Medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease, urinary tract infections, renal tubular acidosis, hyperparathyroidism, medullary sponge kidney, and Dent’s disease increase the risk of kidney stones.

Risk factors

Kidney stones are more common among males than females. Most people who experience kidney stones do so between the ages of 30 and 50 years. A family history of kidney stones also increases one’s chances of developing them.

Similarly, a previous kidney stone occurrence increases the risk that a person will develop subsequent stones in the future if preventative action is not taken.

Certain medications can increase the risk of developing kidney stones. Scientists found that topiramate (Topamax), a drug commonly prescribed to treat seizures and migraine headaches, can increase the likelihood of kidney stones developing.

Additionally, it is possible that long-term use of vitamin D and calcium supplements cause high calcium levels, which can contribute to kidney stones.

Additional risk factors for kidney stones include diets that are high in protein and sodium but low in calcium, a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, high blood pressure, and conditions that affect how calcium is absorbed in the body such as gastric bypass surgery, inflammatory bowel disease, and chronic diarrhea.

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