Do you ever wonder how your urine forms? The urine is composed of waste products the body disposes of the body. The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs responsible in excreting the body’s waste. These organs extract waste from the blood, produce urine, balance the fluids in the body and support other important functions of the body.
There are five major roles of the kidneys in the body. The kidneys aid in waste excretion. They filter out toxins, excess salts and urea, a nitrogen-based toxin or waste produced by cell metabolism.
Another important role of the kidneys is maintaining the balance of water levels in the body. The kidneys adjust according to the levels of water in the body. If the water intake of the person decreases, the kidneys will adjust and leave water in the body. On the other hand, if the person drinks enough water, the kidneys excrete excess fluids from the body. The kidneys also help regulate blood pressure, the red blood cells in the body and acids.
However, there are diseases that could affect the kidneys. One of the most common conditions is the formation of kidney stones. These are also called renal lithiasis or nephrolithiasis, which are hard deposits containing minerals and salts that form inside the kidneys.
The stones are pebble-like, hard and form as a result of having high levels of certain minerals in the urine. Though kidneys stones rarely cause permanent damage if it’s treated immediately, the prolonged formation may cause discomfort and pain.
Kidney stones can develop in one or both kidneys, and they often affect people between the ages of 30 and 60. This is a common health condition, affecting three in 20 men and up to two in 20 women.
Kidney stones are known to cause severe pain especially if they have moved around within the kidney or have passed through the ureter. This severe pain is called renal colic.
Here are the most common signs and symptoms of kidney stones.
- Pain that radiates to the lower abdomen and groin
- Pain that fluctuates in intensity and comes and goes
- Pain on urination (dysuria)
- Pink, brown or red urine
- Severe pain on the flanks
- Nausea and vomiting
- Persistent need to urinate
- Foul-smelling urine
- Cloudy urine
- Urinating more than usual
- Small amounts of urine comes out even with the urge to urinate
The kidneys filter out waste products from the blood to be excreted from the body.
The waste products in the blood may form crystals that collect inside the kidneys.
In time, these crystals may form a hard stone-like lump.
When the kidney stone is formed, the body will try to remove it when you urinate.
This means that the stone will need to pass through the kidneys, kidney tubes, and bladder. The formation of these stones depends on which mineral is found excessively in your blood.
4Types of Kidney Stones
Calcium stones are the most common kidneys stones. They usually contain calcium oxalate, which is the most common, maleate or phosphate. Reducing the intake of foods high in oxalate is recommended. These foods include peanuts, chocolate, spinach, beets and potato chips.
A struvite stone is usually found in women who suffer from urinary tract infections (UTIs). This type of stone is large and may obstruct the ureters. The treatment of the underlying cause of the infection is important to prevent the formation of struvite stones.
Uric acid kidney stones are more common in men compared to women. Usually, this type of kidney stone occurs in people who have gout. Sometimes, they also form in people who are undergoing chemotherapy. Reducing foods rich in purines is advised. These foods include legumes, organ meats like kidneys and livers, meats (bacon, pork, lamb, and beef), anchovies, sardines, scallops, mackerel, gravy, and beer.
Cystine stones are uncommon, but they can develop in both men and women,
particularly those who have the genetic disorder called cystinuria.
There are many factors that increase your risk of developing kidney stones.
Family or personal history
If you have relatives who have kidney stones, you are at a higher risk of developing these stones. Moreover, when you had them once, there is a higher risk of having them again.
Consuming a diet that is high in protein, salt and sugar may heighten the risk of the development of some kidney stone types. Calcium stones develop mostly from a high salt diet.
People with a high body mass index (BMI) and a large waist size may develop kidney stones more than others.
People who are not fond of drinking adequate water each day have a higher risk of kidney stones. For those living in warm places, it is important to drink enough water,
especially because they sweat a lot.
Some digestive conditions and surgeries may increase the risk of kidney stones. Inflammatory bowel disease, chronic diarrhea, and gastric bypass surgery may cause certain changes in the GI tract, leading to increased levels of stone-forming substances in the urine.
People with certain conditions
people with the following conditions may have an increased risk of kidney stone formation:
- Urinary tract obstruction
- Chronic bowel inflammation
- Cystic kidney diseases
- History of gastrointestinal surgery
- Hypercalciuria (increased amounts of calcium in the urine)
- Hyperoxaluria (increased oxalate levels in the urine)
- Hyperparathyroidism (the parathyroid glands release too many parathyroid hormones, leading to increased calcium in the blood)
- Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Renal tubular acidosis
- People are taking these medications: diuretics, calcium-based antacids, topiramate ( an anti-seizure medication) and indinavir (an HIV drug).
Kidney stones can be diagnosed by a complete physical examination and tests including:
The doctor may request blood tests to check the levels of the electrolytes, phosphorus, uric acid and calcium.
Creatinine and blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
Blood tests that determine the kidney’s functioning.
This test is to check for bacteria, crystals, blood and white cells in the urine.
Assessment of passed stones
This will determine what type of stone was formed.
Tests to confirm obstruction:
- Abdominal x-rays
- Intravenous pyelogram
- Retrograde pyelogram
- Magnetic resonance imaging of the kidneys and abdomen
- Abdominal CT scan
- Kidney ultrasound
Small stones are easier to expel than larger ones. Most of these stones do not require invasive surgery or treatment. Small stones can be passed by:
Drinking up to 2.8 liters of water per day may help flush the stone out of the urinary system. If approved by your doctor, make sure to drink adequate amounts of water.
The doctor may prescribe a medication to help flush the kidney stone and to reduce the pain experienced. Alpha-blockers, drugs that relax the muscles in the ureters, help pass kidney stones easily and with less discomfort or pain.
Larger stones may need to be broken up using laser energy or ultrasound. Here are the treatment options for larger kidney stones:
The doctor can use sound waves to break up stones. One of the most popular procedures is the extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL), which uses sound waves to make strong vibrations and break the stones into tiny pieces.
This surgical procedure involves the removal of the stone using small telescopes inserted through a small incision in the back.
They say that prevention is better than cure, here are measures for you to do to prevent the formation of kidney stones.
Reduce sodium intake
A high-sodium diet can trigger kidney stone formation. This is because it boosts the amount of calcium in the urine.
Drinks plenty of water
Drinking enough water will help dilute the substances in the urine, which helps prevent stone formation in the kidneys.
When you consume lesser calcium than needed in the body, it can cause an increase in the oxalate levels, which may lead to stone formation. To prevent this, consume foods rich in calcium.
Limit animal protein
Eating too much protein from animals like red meat, eggs, seafood, and poultry may increase the level of uric acid and could lead to the formation of kidney stones.
Avoid eating stone-forming foods
To reduce the chances of having kidney stones, make sure that you stay away from stone-forming foods such as chocolate, beets, rhubarb, spinach, and nuts. These are rich in oxalate.
Avoid vitamin C supplements
In men, too much supplementation of vitamin c may cause kidney stones.
Talk to your doctor about the medicines you are taking
There are medications that could increase the risk of kidney stone formation. Talk to your doctor about taking decongestants, protease inhibitors, diuretics, steroids, anticonvulsants, chemotherapy drugs and uricosuric drugs.