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Kidney Stones: Symptoms, Causes, Types, Diagnosis & Treatment

Team AckoAug 23, 2022

Kidney Stones are a common medical concern. They can cause pain and discomfort if left untreated or if timely preventive measures are not taken. This article will help you understand the causes, types, diagnosis & treatment of Kidney Stones in detail.

Kidney Stones Symptoms

What are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones are solid, stone-like deposits that can cause extreme pain while passing urine. The ureter (a tube that links your kidneys to your bladder) is where kidney stones are most frequently found. Typically, your kidneys produce urine by removing waste from the blood. However, crystals start to form in your kidneys when there is too much waste in your blood and not enough urine is produced to discard this waste.

A kidney stone can increase in size when existing crystals bind to other chemicals and waste products to form a solid substance that will only enlarge if it is not removed from the body by urination. Kidney stones can range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. If left untreated, they can be excruciatingly painful and result in kidney infections or improper renal function.

Signs and symptoms of Kidney Stones

People with diabetes or obesity are also more likely to develop kidney stones. A hereditary disorder called cystinuria can also result in kidney stones.

If the stone is tiny enough, it will pass through the urethra and bladder via urination. The likelihood that a stone will pass naturally and without assistance depends upon the stone's size.

The symptoms of smaller kidney stones that stay in the kidney are frequently nonexistent. You may not feel any discomfort before the stone enters your ureter. However, the degree of pain may vary depending upon the size of the stone once it enters the ureter. The majority of naturally occurring stones pass within 31 to 45 days.

Kidney Stone symptoms in men and women

Following are common symptoms of Kidney Stones in both men and women. Note that Kidney Stones could have multiple symptoms and require a complete diagnosis from your doctor.

  • Pain: Pain is one of the most common symptoms of a Kidney Stone. Discomfort begins when the stone enters the ureter. This can result in a blockage, which puts pressure on the nerve fibres that convey pain signals to the brain. The pain can be at multiple locations and may shift depending upon the stone's location. Ureter tries to contract as it tries to force the stone out, causing immense pain.

  • Burning sensation: You'll begin to experience pain when you urinate once the stone passes the ureter-bladder junction. In medical terms, this is called dysuria. It may feel like a sharp, burning sensation while urinating that may change position depending upon the location of the stone. It is easy to confuse a kidney stone for a UTI if you don't know you have a stone.  Besides the stone, there might also be an infection.

  • Urgency: It is normal to feel the urgency to urinate if you have been holding it in for a long time. However, people suffering from kidney stones may feel urgency whenever they need to relieve themselves. Increased frequency can also be a symptom of kidney stone, which may indicate the change in the stone's position. It might mean that the stone has entered the lower urinary tract.

  • Presence of blood: Urinary blood or hematuria is one of the most common symptoms of having a kidney stone in patients. The colour of the blood may be brown, red, or pink, depending upon the amount of infection. Your doctor can analyse the urine to see if it contains blood even if the blood cells are often too minute to see without a microscope, i.e. microscopic hematuria.

  • Bad odour: Since healthy urine is clear and doesn't smell strong, foul-smelling urine may indicate a kidney or other infection. This infection is commonly referred to as Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) and is usually found in Kidney Stone patients.  

What causes Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones can be caused by the following reasons.

  • Dehydration: Your urine may seem dark if you don't drink enough fluids or don’t sweat excessively. It ought to be transparent or light yellow.

  • Food: Eating habits can significantly impact the possibility of kidney stones. When your kidneys produce urine, calcium and oxalate clump together and form the most typical sort of kidney stone.

  • Digestion and medical issues: People with inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are at a high risk of kidney stones. You may get diarrhoea due to bowel issues, which reduces your urine production. More oxalate may be absorbed by the body from the gut, resulting in kidney stones.

  • Medication: Consuming antibiotics like sulfonamide and ciprofloxacin or medications for AIDS and HIV can lead to kidney stones. Also, diuretics used to treat high blood pressure can cause them.

Types of Kidney Stones

Finding out what kind of kidney stone you have can help identify its source and may provide information on how to lower your risk of developing them. If you pass a kidney stone, try to keep it. Giving the stone to the doctor for analysis can help determine the type of stone you have.

Kidney stones can be of the following four types.

  1. Calcium stones: These are formed by calcium oxalate and are the most common type of kidney stones. The oxalate level of some fruits, vegetables, nuts, and foods like chocolate is high and can lead to the formation of a stone. Calcium phosphate stones are another type of calcium stone that can develop. This particular type of stone is more common in metabolic diseases like renal tubular acidosis. It might also be connected to several drugs used in seizures or migraine treatments like topiramate (Trokendi XR, Topamax, Qudexy XR).

  2. Uric acid stones: People with malabsorption or chronic diarrhoea, those who consume a high protein diet, those with diabetes or metabolic syndrome, and those who lose too much fluid can all develop uric acid stones. Specific genetic variables may also increase your risk of uric acid stones.

  3. Cystine stones: People who suffer from a hereditary condition called cystinuria, in which the kidneys expel an excessive amount of certain amino acids, develop these stones.

  4. Struvite stones: Urinary tract infections cause Struvite stones to develop. These stones sometimes have mild symptoms or offer no warning, but they can grow quickly and become enormous.

Diagnosis of a Kidney Stone

A doctor may suggest the following methods of diagnosis, if you suffer from symptoms of Kidney Stones.

  • Blood analysis: Blood tests may suggest that you have an excess of uric acid or calcium. The results of a blood test allow your doctor to look for additional medical issues while also monitoring the condition of your kidneys.

  • Urine analysis: A urine test may reveal the amount of stone-forming minerals or insufficient amounts of stone-preventing chemicals. Your doctor might ask you to perform two urine collections over two consecutive days in preparation for this test.

  • Ultrasound imaging: Diagnosing kidney stones using an ultrasound is a rapid and simple noninvasive examination. Kidney stones in your urinary tract may be visible on an ultrasound. Even microscopic stones may be found using high-speed or dual-energy computed tomography (CT).

  • Stone analysis: To collect stones you pass, you might be requested to urinate through a strainer. The stone composition will be determined via laboratory analysis. This information is used by your doctor to identify the cause of your kidney stones and to develop a plan to stop further stone formation.

Kidney Stone Treatment

One of the most common treatments for treating kidney stones is drinking more water. This assists in reducing the acidic content in the urine. Additionally, you might have to take medication. However, if the stone obstructs the urine's flow or shows signs of infection, it must be removed surgically.

A non-invasive alternative is a shock-wave lithotripsy. In this treatment, high-energy sound waves are bombarded on the stone so that it breaks into smaller parts. These tiny fragments can then pass through the urine.

How to avoid Kidney Stones

Here are some ways in which you can prevent Kidney Stones from forming in the body.

  1. Remain hydrated

  2. Avoid using vitamin C supplements

  3. Avoid foods high in oxalate

  4. Consume fewer animal proteins

  5. Eat less salt

List of foods to avoid Kidney stones

The following food items may cause a kidney stone in a high-risk patient. Please consult with your doctor before limiting the intake of these food items.

  • Processed foods

  • Beets

  • Canned vegetables

  • Peanuts

  • Condiments

  • Rhubarb

  • Foods with Sodium Nitrate

  • Spinach

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Coffee

  • Soy products

  • Chocolate

  • Wheat bran

  • Foods with Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda)

  • Beef

  • Foods with Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

  • Poultry

  • Fish

  • Canned soups

  • Pork

Frequently asked questions

Here are some common questions about Kidney Stones.

Can children get kidney stones?

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Children can get Kidney stones, but the chances are low as compared to adults. Kidney stones in children can be caused due to medical conditions or diet.

Are Kidney Stones dangerous?

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Kidney Stones can cause a lot of discomfort and pain. They can also lead to chronic kidney disease, but usually, Kidney Stones are not dangerous or life-threatening if treated in time.

Can Kidney Stones damage the kidneys?

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Yes, but not often. If kidney stones repeatedly occur or obstruct the kidneys for an extended period, they can harm people. If some stones are not addressed, the kidney may stop functioning.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. It is based on several secondary sources on the internet. As this content piece is not vetted by a medical professional, please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.

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Sources:

https://www.nhp.gov.in/management-of-kidney-stone_mtl

https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/diet

https://icurology.org/DOIx.php?id=10.4111/icu.2018.59.3.158

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