Kidney Stones (Renal Calculi)

Kidney stones are caused by crystals that form in the kidney and in the urine. These crystals form when there are more minerals and chemicals in the urine than the urine can dissolve. These crystals tend to stick together and eventually form a stone. The discharge can be extremely painful. The severe pain comes from these stones abruptly moving into the tight tube between the kidney and the bladder. Approximately 10 percent of the US population has had a kidney stone, and the incidence of stones appears to be increasing due to changes in diet and lifestyles.

There are four major types of kidney stones:

  • The most common types of stone contains calcium in combination with oxalate or less commonly phosphate. Both oxalate and phosphate can be present in foods. When calcium is not used by the bones and muscles, it goes to the kidneys where it can combine with oxalate or phosphate to form stones.
  • A struvite stone may form after a urinary infection. These stones contain magnesium and the waste product ammonia
  • A uric acid stone may form when there is too much acid in the urine. Uric acid stones can be caused by eating too much meat
  • Cystine stones are rare. Here, Cystine, a crystalline amino acid found in proteins that make up muscles, nerves, and other parts of the body, builds up in the urine to form a stone. Cystinuria, the disease that causes cystine stones is hereditary

What are the symptoms of Kidney Stones?

Most kidney stones will pass out of the body without help from a doctor. Sometimes they are too large to pass and may continue to grow. If you have a stone that will not pass by itself, you may need to seek the help of a physician.

If you have any of the following signs, contact your doctor:

  • Extreme pain in your back or side
  • Blood in your urine
  • Burning urination
  • Cloudy or foul smelling urine
  • Fever and chills
  • Vomiting

How are Kidney Stones diagnosed?

Your doctor may ask for a urine sample or take blood to find out what caused your stone. You may need to collect your urine for a 24-hour period. These tests will help your doctor find ways for you to avoid stones in the future.

How are Kidney Stones treated?

The therapy your doctor gives you depends on the type of stone you have. Your doctor may perform various urine tests to determine the cause of your stones and predict the recurrence of stones forming. You must seek help for stones that you are not able to pass. In the past, surgery was the only method for eliminating stones. Now there are alternative methods such as shock waves (ESWL), Tunnel Surgery and using an Ureteroscope.

How to prevent Kidney Stones

Stay hydrated. Try to drink 8-10 oz. of water per hour. Drinking lots of water helps to flush away the substances that form stones in the kidneys. Ginger ale, lemon-lime sodas, and fruit juices are also good choices, but water is the best. Reduce your caffeine intake as this may cause you to lose fluids too quickly.

Adjusting your diet to reduce foods containing oxalate will reduce the recurrence of stones. Additionally, your doctor may recommend increasing your intake of foods high in calcium, including dairy products since recent evidence indicates that these foods may prevent your body from absorbing oxalate from your digestive tract. This is a departure from the past when people who form calcium stones were told to avoid consuming dairy products and other foods with high calcium.