First, what are kidneys? The kidneys are located in the abdomen, on either side of your spine, just above your waist. They filter your blood and excrete waste products and excess water as urine.
A kidney stone is a solid piece of material that forms in the kidneys from substances in the urine. Stones can occur in any part of the urinary system, from the kidney to the bladder. They may be small or large. Kidney stones are most common in middle-aged people. They are more common in men than in women. They tend to come back.
What are kidney stones made of?
There are several types of kidney stones, but most stones are calcium stones. They occur when there is too much calcium in the urine. If your kidneys don’t work properly or if too much calcium is absorbed from your stomach and intestines, you may have excess calcium in your urine.
Some calcium stones are caused by too much of a chemical called oxalate that is found in many foods including spinach, rhubarb, leafy vegetables, coffee, chocolate, and tomatoes. Oxalate binds easily with calcium to form a stone.
A second type of kidney stone occurs because you have too much uric acid in your urine. Uric acid stones might result if you become dehydrated, for example, during strenuous exercise on a hot day or during an illness. Uric acid stones are common in people who have gout, a disease that causes high uric acid levels in the blood.
Struvite stones are a third type. They are also called infection stones because they form in urine that is infected with bacteria.
Finally, a rare type of kidney stone is a cystine stone. It occurs if you have the genetic disease called cystinuria. This disease results from a birth defect that causes the kidney to allow too much cystine into the urine. This type of stone formation is usually diagnosed during childhood.
Do I have kidney stones?
Some people have no symptoms until they pass gravel-like stones in their urine. Others never have any symptoms, and their stones are found during testing for other problems. When kidney stones cause symptoms, they are generally:
· Renal colic (severe, crampy pain in your back or abdomen)
· Difficulty urinating
· Urinary tract infection (fever, chills, sweats)
If you suspect that you may have kidney stones, seek proper evaluation and diagnosis from your healthcare provider.
How is it treated?
Treatment depends on the size, type, and location of the stone(s), whether one or more stones are blocking urine flow out of the kidney, and whether there are signs of infection.
Small stones can be passed at home. Your healthcare provider may ask you to strain all urine until the stone is passed. When the stone is caught, it can be tested in the lab to see what kind of stone it is. Usually you have pain off and on for several hours up to 1 or 2 days. However, a stone may take days or even weeks to pass. If a stone has not passed after a month or so, it may need to be surgically removed.
Larger stones that might block the flow of urine may require surgical intervention to remove the stone. As always, if you feel that you might have a kidney stone, see your health care provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.
· Follow your healthcare provider’s recommended treatment for any health problems that may be causing kidney stones.
· Drink plenty of water daily.
· Follow any changes in your diet recommended by your provider after the stone has been tested in the lab.
· Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to help prevent more stones.
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