Did you know?
The USA has approximately 11% of men and 6% of women who suffer from kidney stones at least once in their lifetime. (Source: NIDDK)
What are they?
Kidney stones are small mineral deposits that can form in one or both of your kidneys. They’re usually made of crystals, but they can also be made of small pieces of broken-up red blood cells.
They are small (hard) deposits that form in the kidney. They can be formed from urine, or they can form from other substances, such as calcium oxalate, uric acid, and cysteine.
Kidney stones are not cancer and do not cause death. If you have a kidney stone, it’s likely that you’ll pass it in your urine without any symptoms (unless the stone is very large and/or blocks the flow of urine).
Kidney stones can be very painful when they break off in the urine. But other times, they cause no symptoms at all.
What causes Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones are accumulation of minerals in the urine that forms a hard stone. This can happen when your kidneys aren’t able to filter out these minerals properly.
The most common cause is high levels of calcium in the urine. Other causes include:
- High sodium levels in the blood (hypernatremia)
- An increase in urine volume, especially if you’re dehydrated
- urine that’s too concentrated (hypercalciuria)
- A urinary tract infection
- Excess caffeine intake
Other common causes include:
People who have anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge-eating disorder may have a greater tendency to form kidney stones.
Obese people are more likely to develop kidney stones than others. Obesity can raise your risk for kidney stones by increasing pressure on your urinary tract and making it harder for urine to pass through your kidneys properly.
People with diabetes are at increased risk for kidney stones because of the damage that excess sugar can do to the body’s metabolism and its filtering system.
High blood pressure (hypertension)
A condition that causes your blood to flow too quickly through your arteries when you stand up or sit down. High BP can cause damage to the kidneys and can increase your risk of developing a kidney stone. If left untreated, hypertensive kidney stones often develop into chronic kidney disease (CKD).
Overmedication with medications like diuretics
These medicines help your body drain more fluid from your body, which leads to dehydration and increased urine output. This can lead to excess amounts of sodium and potassium being excreted in the urine, which increases the risk of forming a stone.
In this condition, there is high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) due to either insulin resistance or absolute insulin deficiency.
What are the different types of kidney stones?
The most common types of kidney stones include:
Calcium oxalate urolithiasis: This type of kidney stone is the most common and can cause symptoms such as pain, nausea, and vomiting.
Uric acid urolithiasis: Uric acid stones form when too much uric acid builds up in the urine (urate). These stones are more likely to cause pain than calcium oxalate stones. The pain is usually worse after drinking alcohol and may be triggered by medications or foods high in purines, such as organ meats, crab, lobster, shrimp, and tuna.
Sodium urate urolithiasis: This type of stone forms when too much sodium urate (a salt) builds up in the urine (sodium urate). Symptoms include pain in the back or side and blood in your urine; they may be worse at night or when you first rise from lying down or sitting upright.
What are the symptoms of kidney stones?
The symptoms of a kidney stone can be mild or severe. The severity depends on how large the stone is and whether it has passed into the ureter (the tube that carries urine from the kidneys to the bladder).
The most common symptom of a kidney stone is a pain in the side, back, or front of your belly that starts suddenly and lasts for several hours. If you have pain, it may be confused with other conditions such as:
- Kidney infection
- Urinary tract infection
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
The first symptom of a kidney stone is usually nausea and vomiting. This may be paired with a general feeling of abdominal pain, or it could be severe enough to cause you to sit down or lie down. You may also experience fever, chills, and general malaise (feeling unwell).
The second symptom of a kidney stone is blood in the urine. If a person experiences this symptom, then he or she should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Blood in the Urine can indicate that there is a problem with the urinary tract or bladder. Blood in the Urine will also occur if you have an infection in your urinary tract that has spread to your kidneys.
Other signs and symptoms associated with kidney stones include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pale skin
- Cold hands and feet
- Rashes on the body
- dark urine (which may be tinged with blood)
- a feeling of fullness in one or both of your kidneys
Kidney stone treatment and home remedies
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for kidney stones.
The best way to prevent a recurrence is to prevent the formation of stones in the first place by eating a low-salt diet, drinking plenty of water, avoiding citrate antacids (such as Tums), and not smoking.
If you already have a stone, talk with your doctor about treatments that might help relieve pain and prevent future stones from forming.
Some people are more likely than others to form kidney stones, which is why some people may need more aggressive treatment or medications than others.
Here’s what you can do at home to help prevent stones from forming:
Eat a low-sodium diet
A high-sodium diet can raise blood pressure and salt levels in the body and make it easier for calcium oxalate crystals to be formed into kidney stones.
If you’re on a low-sodium diet, make sure that you don’t consume any foods high in sodium (such as canned soup). If you’re taking diuretics, talk with your doctor about how much salt you should add back into your diet after stopping the medication.
Your body needs sodium to maintain proper fluid balance in your body. However, too much can lead to calcium filtration issues and kidney stone formation. Therefore, if you feel that you have been eating too much salt, then it would be wise for you to limit your intake as much as possible while drinking more water.
Drink plenty of water
Drinking lots of water is one of the best ways to prevent kidney stones from forming. A simple way to do this is to drink between 8-10 glasses of water each day. If you are unable to consume that much water, try drinking more throughout the day in smaller amounts.
Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of developing kidney stones by increasing uric acid levels in the urine, which then leads to crystal formation and eventual stone formation if not treated properly by consuming appropriate home remedies or medication prescribed by a doctor.
The first thing to know about kidney stones is that they’re not always painful. Some people get what’s called “transient pain,” which may be relieved with painkillers but will go away on its own in a few days.
Most doctors recommend that patients drink plenty of fluids when they’re undergoing treatment for a kidney stone since dehydration can make it more likely that the stone will pass through your urinary tract and cause blockages elsewhere in the body.
If you have a high fever, see your doctor right away. It’s best to avoid caffeine, alcohol, and citrus juices while undergoing treatment for a kidney stone; these substances can make passing them through your urinary tract more difficult because they stimulate contractions in your bladder wall and make it harder to empty urine out of the body.