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illustration of the kidney stones. urology, dialysis

What Causes Kidney Stones

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Dr Cocja

What Causes Kidney Stones

 

illustration of the kidney stones. urology, dialysis

illustration of the kidney stones. urology, dialysis

Kidney stones also called renal lithiasis are formed from a build-up of crystals made up of minerals and acid salts.  The majority of these stones are calcium salts namely calcium oxalate and calcium and calcium phosphate. This renal condition is actually quite common and is responsible for a high number of visits to the emergency room at hospitals.
Who is at risk?
Kidney stones affect both men and women but men have a higher risk of developing these stone-like lumps in the kidneys or the urinary tract. Persons between ages of 25-49 are more frequently affected. Dietary preferences and the pH of the urine can contribute to the formation of kidney stones. Certain medication can contribute to the build-up of mineral salts such as calcium containing antacids, diuretics and antiretroviral preparations.
Obese persons and pregnant women are also at risk of developing kidney stones. Other conditions which predispose persons to develop kidney stone are:
•    Diabetes
•    Hypertension
•    Kidney infections
•    Hyperparathyroidism
•    Other metabolic disorders

What are the symptoms?
Usually persons begin to exhibit symptoms when the stones start to move around in the kidney or shift to the small tubes (ureters) leading from the kidney to the bladder. It is also entirely possible to have no symptoms whatsoever and the kidney stone are an incidental finding on x-ray or ultrasound studies for other conditions.
Symptoms include:
o    Pain on urination
o    Vomiting
o    Nausea
o    Loin pain which radiates to the groin
o    Blood in the urine
o    Fever and chills (signs of a urinary tract infection)

Diagnosis
A description of all the symptoms being experienced as well as a physical examination done by the doctor will give a preliminary diagnosis. A confirmation is given with diagnostic studies i.e. plain and IVP (contrast aided) x-rays, ultrasound and CT scan.

Is there a cure?
Happily for some persons the stones are passed out along with the urine. This can be spontaneous and may even be painless. Not everyone is so lucky as some patients endure excruciating pain when the kidney stone is transiting through the urinary tract.

Treatment options are:
1.    Administering intravenous fluids and analgesics with the hope of the patient expelling the stone(s).
2.    Surgical removal of the stone
3.    Using ultra sonic waves ( lithotripsy) to break up the stones for easier expulsion in the urine

How can kidney stones be prevented?
For persons who have family history of kidney stones or are predisposed to this because of an underlying disease such as gout, the following tips are helpful.
1. Keep your body well-hydrated by drinking at least 8 glasses of water daily
2. Limit the use of acid salts
3. Limit the dietary intake of calcium rich food, high salt foods, excessive sugar and calcium oxalate containing vegetables namely spinach.
4. Limit the use of supplements with minerals
5. Have urinary tract infection treated promptly

If you are experiencing lower backache and urinary symptoms, do not ignore or self-diagnose as there are many medical conditions that could be causing those symptoms. Consult with a doctor without delay.