Kidney stone? – Types, causes, and treatments

What is a kidney stone?

Kidney stones consist of hard mass deposition in the renal system of human body. It is also termed as renal calculus. It can occur anywhere from kidneys to the urinary bladder. Stones occur as insoluble crystals which are formed of salt and mineral compounds. They cause blood in urine and pain in abdomen and groin. These are formed due to excessive production of calcium, oxalate, phosphate, urate, cystine, and xanthine.

Diagnosis of kidney stones can be done through following tests:

  • Blood Test:

    Excessive uric acid or calcium presence in body show-up in blood tests.

    kidney stone

  • Urine Test:

    Urine sample analysis after its collection for 24 hours depicts too much stone forming minerals presence. Also passing of direct stones in urine which can be collected in a provided strainer during test reveals stone presence. The further lab test of collected stones can be done to identify its cause.

  • Imaging or scans:

    In this simple abdominal X-ray scan can help identify kidney stone presence and for very fine kidney stones computerized tomography (CT) scan can be done.

 

What are the main types of kidney stones?

Kidney stones constitute a different type of crystals. There are mainly four types of kidney stones:

Calcium

This one is the most common existing type of kidney stones. It is formed of calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate crystals. Conditions like hyperthyroidism might lead to excessive calcium level in the body. Also, the oxalate-rich diet including foods like foods includes: spinach, peanut butter, beetroot, rhubarb, bran flakes, French fries is another cause for this type of stones.

Uric acid

This type of stone, exist usually in people with gout condition or the ones who undergo chemotherapies.  It is observed more in men in comparison to women. Purine-rich diet (animal proteins like meat and fish) causing too much acidic urine leads to it. Excessive alcohol intake and low urine excretion also lead to these kinds of stones.

Struvite

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the main cause of these stones hence making women more prone to this in comparison to men. They might even cause urinary obstruction in case their size becomes big. They are caused by an infection which reaches kidney hence treating the main infection causing pathogen can stop struvite stone production.

Cystine

These stones occur in people with a genetic disorder of cystinuria hence are rarest amongst all stone types. In this, a naturally formed cystine (acidic by nature) leaks from kidneys to ureters and show its presence in urine. If stones are big in size they might cause pain and irritation in ureters while passing, which can also lead to blood in urine. Sometimes even urinary obstruction can happen if the flow of urine is blocked by the stones, which can further lead to a serious kidney infection and even kidney damage.

How is kidney stone caused?

 

  • Food

    – There is no certain evidence to conclude a fixed diet which causes kidney stones. However, an effect of diet in causing kidney stones can neither be ruled out completely. Eating excessive protein-rich diets with low fiber intakes have appeared to cause stones. Animal protein and oxalate-rich diets must be best avoided in such cases.

    kidney stone

  • Dehydration

    – It is another big reason for kidney stones. Since the excess salts and minerals find their way out of the body through urine. One should maintain sufficient amount of fluid intake, to remove all toxic substances, or by the time it will accumulate in the body in form of hard stones. So it is always best to drink as much fluid especially water to keep this problem at bay. Avoid diuretics like coffee and tea instead herbal caffeine-free tea must opt.

  • Genetics

    – Researchers say, that over the time that this renal disease has the traits to follow the family tree. If it is part of grandparent’s and parent’s medical history then most likely their kids might also suffer from the same sooner or later. It is because some people have higher calcium levels than normal which are due to specific genes they possess and it keeps passing over the generations. Also, people with the hereditary disease of renal tubular acidosis are more prone to kidney stone formation.

  • Environmental factors

    – The reason less attracts attention, but one cannot neglect this factor. Since many studies revealed that people living in warmer countries are more dehydrated hence leading this to be a secondary cause of kidney stone formation.

  • Gender

    – This is basically a secondary reason. Like women are more prone to struvite kidney stones in comparison to men because its cause is all types of UTIs. Women experience more UTIs than men.

  • Medications

    – Some medicines like few antibiotics and aspirin are also stone formation reasons. Especially, in patients who are prone to kidney stones or have experienced it in past are more likely to develop stones again while on these medications. In such cases, share all medical history with general practitioner so that he can suggest some alternative medications for treatment of secondary diseases.

 

What are the available treatments for a kidney stone?

Kidney stone treatment, depending on some factors like- symptoms, type, size, and cause of stones.

Small stones: Such stones usually do not require any surgical procedures, Simply can treat by following ways:

  • Medications-

    Passing stones cause pain even the smaller ones does. Physician to relieve pain recommend painkiller like- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or opioids, paracetamol, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen as pain relievers. Also, medical therapist use alpha blockers like tamsulosin 4mm to 10mm for expelling stones, as it helps in relaxing the ureter muscles to help to pass the kidney stone with ease and less pain. Doctors use Calcium channel blockers, in few cases where calcium is the cause for stones. Practitioners use a combination of corticosteroids and alpha-blockers, as a therapy to eliminate stones, they also use it in lithotripsy.

  • A lot of fluid intakes:

    Drinking ample of fluids especially 2-3 liters of water dilutes the salt and minerals in the body, which helps in expelling it through urine it helps in flushing out all toxins hampering the urinary system. A lot of exercise helps in eliminating excess water during workouts so; this can help in faster removal of body toxins.

    kidney stone

  • Large stones:

    Such stones require a combination of medications along with the surgical procedure to remove stones. In these cases, stones are big enough to cause bleeding, and kidney damage. Procedures include:

  • Breaking stones by using sound waves:

    In few cases depending on the size and its location, physicians recommend procedure like extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL). It use vibration to break the stone into tiny pieces, helps it to easily pass through urine. It might take 45 minutes to 1 hour for this whole procedure and mild pain under some sedative. After effects of ESWL procedure might include blood in urine, bruising in the abdominal region, bleeding around adjacent organs including kidneys.

  • Ureteroscope surgery:

    To remove smaller to medium size stone from ureter and kidney, practitioner use equips a thin tube (ureteroscope) with light and camera to locate stones. Doctors use a special tool, anesthesia – to break the stone into pieces, the process helps in the removal through the urine, in the end, small tube insertion is done by the surgeon to relieve swelling and promote faster healing.

  • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy surgery:

    In this small telescopic instruments, practitioners then insert after incision under anesthesia, on the back to remove stones. Specialist suggests it in case of unsuccessful ESWL.

  • Parathyroid gland surgery: Overactivation of the parathyroid glands cause:

    excessive calcium and phosphate stones. They are located in the four corners of the thyroid gland, immediately below Adam’s apple. When the gland initiates production too much of parathyroid hormone which happens in case of hyperparathyroidism, then the calcium levels can reach up to peak and can cause kidney stones to occur. Also, hyperparathyroidism can occur in presence of few benign tumors in the parathyroid gland or due to any secondary condition leading to malfunctioning of the gland to cause overproduction of hormones. Removal of the formed benign tumor from the gland can help in stopping the overproduction of hormones which will further stop the formation of kidney stones due to this. Doctors only recommend this surgery in the case of over-production of parathyroid gland hormone, which doctors trace through pre-surgery tests.

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