Kidneys are bean shaped organs which are located in the back side of the abdomen on both sides of the spine. They are nearly 4 inches i.e. 10cms in length. The job of the kidneys is to remove all the waste particles from the blood. The clean blood in then passed back into the body and the waste particles are removed out of the body when one passes urine.
The kidney stones can be formed in one or on both the kidneys and this mostly affects people in the age group of 30 – 60 years. The medical term used for kidney stones is nephrolithiasis and when kidney stones cause severe pain it is termed as renal colic.
- 1 Symptoms of kidney stones
- 2 When to seek immediate medical care
- 3 Causes of Kidney Stones
- 4 Types of kidney stones
Symptoms of kidney stones
Small kidney stones may most of the times be undetected and pass out in the urine and these stones do not cause any symptoms. The symptoms are usually visible in the following cases;
- When the stones get stuck in the kidney
- It starts moving down the ureter which is the tube that connects the kidney with the bladder. If the stones are big, this movement can cause pain
- If there is an infection caused due to the kidney stones.
And due to any of the above situations the person will experience some or all of the symptoms mentioned below;
- Severe pain in the lower left side of the abdomen and this pain may also be felt in the groin.
- Pain may extent to the back and the intensity of the pain will keep fluctuating and it may last for few minutes and sometimes hours.
- Unable to sit in a still position and uneasiness
- Persistent need to urinate more often
- Pain while urinating
- Blood in the urine
When the kidney stones block the ureter then this can lead to infection. The blockage does not allow the waste particles to pass out and this can cause build-up of bacteria. The symptoms of kidney infection are also similar to kidney stones but it can also cause the following;
- Foul smell in the urine
When to seek immediate medical care
The patient must meet the doctor immediately in the following cases
- Fever more than 100.4 degrees
- Shivering or Tremors
- Sudden and unbearable pain
Causes of Kidney Stones
The waste particles in the blood at times form into crystals that get collected inside the urine and with time they develop into hard lumps or stones. These stones are formed out of certain chemicals in the body which can be any of the following – calcium, ammonia, uric acid or cysteine.
The kidney stones are formed due to lack of drinking sufficient fluids, taking certain medications, or if the body increases the level of certain substances in the urine due to certain medical condition of the person. Normally once the kidney stone is formed the body will try to pass it out in the urine and thus the stone travels through the urinary system of the body. If it is small it will travel without pain and pass out from the body. But if the stone is large enough there will be pain and other symptoms and at times it can also lead to complications.
In few people the kidney stones keep developing again and again and this is found more in people who;
- Eat low fiber food
- Are inactive
- Have a family history of kidney stones
- Have kidney or urinary infection
- Have only one fully active kidney
- Has had a surgery of the digestive system or any other factor which is affecting the small intestine.
Types of kidney stones
The four main types of kidney stones and their causes are mentioned below.
Most of the kidney stones that are developed in people are calcium stones and it is formed due to excessive calcium in the urine. The reason for this excessive calcium could be due to;
- An inherited condition which causes too much of calcium in the urine, this particular condition is known as hypercalcuria
- An overactive parathyroid gland, these glands are responsible for controlling the amount of calcium in the body
- Any kidney disorder
- Any type of cancer
These stones are formed after any infection and they mostly are formed after a urinary tract infection which was present for a very long time. This kind of kidney stones is more common among women than men.
Uric acid stones
This stones are formed when there is excessive amount of acid in the urine and this is caused due to;
- Eating very high protein food that includes lot of meat
- Gout which restricts the body’s ability to break down certain chemicals
- An inherited condition which leads to excessive acid levels in the body
This is not a very common kind of kidney stone and it is caused due to an inherited condition which is known as cystinuria. This condition affects the amount of acid that is passed in the urine.
The doctor will be in a position to diagnose kidney stones with the symptoms that the patient is experiencing and his/her medical history. It is even simpler if the patient has had kidney stones in the past. The doctor will ask the patient to undergo the below mentioned tests;
- Urine test to know is there is any infection and if there are any pieces of stones
- Examination of the stones which are passed in the urine
- Blood test to check if the kidneys are functioning properly and also to know the level of the substance that is causing the kidney stones
It is possible to collect kidney stones of the patient by urinating through some gauze. Examining the kidney stone which is passed in the urine will be beneficial for the diagnosis and further treatment. If the patient is having high fever and unbearable pain which cannot be controlled through pain killers then the doctor would suggest meeting an urologist.
At times the doctor may suggest the patient to do an imaging test in a hospital this is helpful in confirming the diagnosis and determine where exactly the kidney stone is located. In imaging test there are various techniques as given below;
- CT (Computerized tomography) scan
- Ultrasound scan
- Intravenous urogram (IVU) or Intravenous pyelogram (IVP)
In most of the cases the patient has small kidney stones which are less than 4mm in diameter and this can be passed through the urine and can be easily treated at home. But even passing of the small kidney stones can be a painful process. The doctor will give medication either in the form of injection or tablets if the patient is experiencing severe pain or other symptoms like nausea or vomiting.
Treatment at home
The patient will be asked to rest at home and wait till the kidney stone is passed in the urine and if possible collect it. Collection the stone is possible by filtering the urine through the gauze. The stone can be given to the doctor for further testing and analysis to know if any further treatment has to be given to the patient.
The patient should drink lots of water to ensure the urine is clear and it should not be yellow or brown.
Treatment at the hospital
In cases where the kidney stone has moved to the ureter and causing a lot of pain the patient will have to be admitted in the hospital for further treatment. A hospital treatment is advised in the following cases;
- Greater risk of kidney failure especially if the patient has only one kidney
- No improvement post taking medication for pain and nausea or vomiting
- If the patient is pregnant
- If the patient is more than 60 years old
Treatment of large kidney stones
If the kidney stones are around 6 -7 mm in diameter then it cannot pass through urine naturally and will require a different option for treatment. The different treatment options are given below;
- Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL)
- Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL)
- Open surgery
Drinking a lot of water in the day is the best option for preventing kidney stones to be formed. The urine must be diluted to ensure the waste product do not get collected to form into stones. It is possible to determine if the urine is diluted by looking at the color of urine. The darker the urine indicates that it is more concentrated. In places where the weather is hot and humid or if the person exercises a lot then more of fluids should be consumed to replenish the fluids that are lost sweating.
If the kidney stone is caused due to calcium then the patient is supposed to avoid eating food that contains high levels of oxalates. Oxalates restrict the calcium to be absorbed in the body thus allowing them to accumulate in the kidney which eventually forms into a stone. Some of the foods that contain high level of oxalates are given below;
- Sweet Potatoes
- Almonds, peanuts and cashew nuts
- Soy products
- Grains like oatmeal, whole wheat etc.
One must not reduce the intake of calcium in the diet unless advised by the doctor. Since calcium is necessary for healthy bones and teeth.
To avoid uric acid stones one must reduce the intake of meat, poultry and fish.
The doctor will also suggest certain medication for pain relief and avoiding formation of any infection. The other medications prescribed by the doctor will be basis the type of kidney stone.
Matt Bailey is a noted writer, content marketer and Social Strategist at FindaTopDoc. Find a best Local Doctor by Specialty and Insurance.