There’s no doubt that the kidneys are one of the most important body organs necessary for overall well-being. However, the prevalence of kidney stones is increasing globally, which poses a serious threat to the role of the kidneys, and the ensuing complications could be life-threatening.
Understanding what kidney stones are, the types, and the risk factors would go a long way in helping you figure out how to prevent kidney stones. And that begs questions such as, what are the different types of kidney stones? What are the warning signs of kidney stones? And how are kidney stones diagnosed?
Today, we’ll be answering those questions.
What are Kidney Stones?
These stones are hard deposits made of minerals and acid salts that form inside your kidney. They stick together in concentrated urine and can be painful when you pass them through your urinary tract.
Types of Kidney Stones
Knowing the types of kidney stones helps to determine the cause. Beyond that, knowing the type would also give helpful insight into the best ways to reduce your risk of getting more kidney stones.
So, what are these types of kidney stones?
- Calcium stones: Most kidney stones are calcium stones, which come in the form of calcium oxalate. Oxalate is a substance produced daily by your liver or absorbed from your diet. Factors such as high doses of vitamin D, some metabolic disorders, and undergoing intestinal bypass surgery can increase the concentration of oxalate or calcium in your urine. Some metabolic conditions such as renal tubular acidosis can also cause calcium stones in the form of calcium phosphate.
- Uric acid stones: Uric acid stones are also types of kidney stones that can form if you have too much uric acid in your body. It tends to form when you lose too much fluid due to chronic diarrhea or malabsorption.
- Struvite stones: Upper urinary tract infection (UTI) from bacteria is the primary cause of struvite stones. These stones can grow quickly, become quite large, and sometimes have non-noticeable symptoms.
- Cystine stones: Cystine stones refer to kidney stones made of a chemical known as cystine. Cystine is a product of a condition called cystinuria. Cystine stones tend to be larger; sometimes, doctors need to remove them surgically to prevent kidney or urinary tract damage. It’s a rare inherited condition.
Risk Factors of Kidney Stones
Now that we’ve discussed the types of kidney stones, certain risk factors increase your chances of getting them. Below are some of the risk factors:
- Dehydration: Dehydration is one of the most common causes and risk factors for kidney stones. It’s also the easiest to remedy. Not drinking enough water reduces the fluid content in your urine, and kidney stones form when your urine contains more crystal-forming substances than the fluid in your urine can dilute.
- Family History: If there’s someone in your family who has had kidney stones, you have a higher risk of developing kidney stones than someone without a family history of kidney stones.
- Obesity: Factors such as high body mass index, large waist size, and weight gain increase your risk of kidney stones, either as a single episode or recurrent episodes.
- Diet: Some studies have confirmed that eating a diet high in sodium increases your risk of certain types of kidney stones. Sodium increases the amount of calcium your kidney has to filter. Also, diets high in protein and sugar can increase your risk of kidney stones.
- Digestive diseases and surgery: Digestive system disorders such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease can affect your body’s calcium, electrolyte, and water absorption. That may increase your risk of forming kidney stones. In addition, some surgical procedures, including weight loss surgery or other stomach or intestine surgeries, can increase your risk of kidney stones.
- Metabolic disorders: Renal tubular acidosis and cystinuria are examples of metabolic disorders that increase your risk of kidney stones.
- Urinary tract infection: If you suffer from chronic urinary tract infections, it may increase your risk of kidney stones.
What are the Warning Signs of Kidney Stones?
You can have a stone in your kidney for several years and have no idea it’s there. Smaller kidney stones may not cause pain or other symptoms but pass out of your body in your urine.
However, when it starts moving or getting very large, you are likely to experience warning signs that may include one or more of the following:
- Sharp pain in your lower back, side, abdomen, or groin. The pain can start as a dull ache that may come and go
- Blood in your urine
- Nausea or vomiting with the pain
- Inability to urinate
- Pain during urination
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
- Fever or chills
How are Kidney Stones Diagnosed?
After discussing your medical history, your healthcare provider may order any of the following tests to diagnose kidney stones:
- Imaging tests: Through a CT scan and ultrasound, your healthcare provider can detect kidney stones’ size, shape, location, and number. That would determine the type of treatment necessary for you.
- Blood test: A blood test will reveal how well your kidneys are functioning and check for infection. It’ll also show any biochemical problems that may lead to kidney stones.
- Urine test: The urine test looks for signs of infection and examines the levels of the substances that form kidney stones.
How to Prevent Kidney Stones
As mentioned earlier, understanding the types of kidney stones, causes, and the risk factors for kidney stones go a long way in understanding how to prevent kidney stones. Unsurprisingly, some of these preventive measures are directly linked to the risk factors.
Let’s check out all you need to know about preventing kidney stones.
Drink More Water
Recall that one of the risk factors for kidney stones is having too little water in your body. As a result, one of the ways to decrease your risk and prevent kidney stones is drinking at least six to eight 8-ounce glasses daily.
Staying hydrated helps you urinate more often, enabling you to pass out the buildup of the substances that may cause kidney stones.
Limit Your Salt Intake
It only makes sense to limit your salt intake and the consumption of other things high in sodium, given that sodium increases your risk of kidney stones.
Obesity is a risk factor for kidney stones; thus, losing weight is one of the ways to prevent kidney stones. Speak to experts to determine your ideal weight and the best weight loss plan to achieve your goal.
There are certain medications your healthcare provider may prescribe to help prevent kidney stones.
How Do You Get Rid of Kidney Stones?
Surgery is the first answer you get when you ask some people, “how do you get rid of kidney stones.” While surgery is one of the ways to get rid of kidney stones, it’s not the only way. Your healthcare provider must diagnose you first and determine if you need treatment.
For instance, if the diagnosis reveals only smaller kidney stones, those may leave your system when you urinate. In that case, your solution may not be surgery but medications that help relax your ureter so that stones can pass.
The most effective ways of getting rid of kidney stones include:
Drinking water is also suitable for treating kidney stones, not only for prevention. As recommended, drink up to 15 cups (3.6 liters) of water daily to dilute your urine and prevent stones from forming.
Ibuprofen is one of the medicines your health provider may prescribe to decrease pain. However, you must consult with your healthcare provider and never self-medicate. Why? Certain medications, including ibuprofen, may increase the risk of kidney failure if taken while you’re having an acute attack of the kidney.
Your healthcare provider may also prescribe medications to relax your ureter, so the stones pass. Examples of commonly prescribed medications for this include nifedipine.
Getting Rid of Kidney Stones with Surgery
What if drinking water and medications don’t solve the problem? The next best thing is surgery. Examples of surgeries used to treat kidney stones include:
For this procedure, the doctor inserts a ureteroscope in your urethra through your bladder and into your ureter. The ureteroscope shows the kidney stones, retrieves them in a surgical “basket,” or breaks them apart using a laser.
You can then pass out the smaller pieces of the kidney stones through your urinary tract.
For this procedure, your healthcare provider places you on a special surgical table or tub. They. Then send high-energy shockwaves through the water to break the stones apart.
The broken stones can then exit your body more easily.
This is a “last resort” procedure that your healthcare provider opts for when the other procedures can’t treat kidney stones. This may be because there are too many stones, the stones are too large or heavy, or because of their location.
For this procedure, a tube is inserted directly into your kidney through a small incision in your back. An ultrasound probe disintegrates the stones and suctions them out so that you don’t have to pass any fragments. A ureteral stent is placed after the procedure and removed one week later.
Taking Control of Your Health with Craft Body Scan
At Craft Body Scan, we are dedicated to helping you restore your health by providing the needed clarity to make informed decisions. It’s easier for you to take control of your health and safeguard your kidney with early detection through our non-invasive low-dose scanner that detects any abnormality in your system.
Interested in scheduling an appointment? Please click the link below.