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What are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones are also known as nephrolithiasis and renal calculi. These are the hard substances made up of minerals and salts that form inside the kidneys. Kidney stones can affect any site of the urinary tract, from the bladder to the kidney. Usually, stones do not cause any permanent damage if it is diagnosed at the right time. 

It is important to treat kidney stones to improve the quality of life, manage symptoms, and avoid complications. Untreated kidney stones may result in reduced kidney function, kidney damage, and severe infections.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Sones?

  1. Chills and fever
  2. Presence of blood in the urine
  3. Vomiting and/or nausea
  4. Feeling of pain while urinating
  5. The frequency of urination has been increased
  6. Feeling an urge for urination but unable to urinate
  7. The appearance of urine is cloudy
  8. Foul smell from urine
  9. Experiencing pain in the lower back. This pain can be radiating and may start as a dull pain and can go on to be chronic.

What are the Causes of Kidney Stones?

  1. There is no definite and single cause of kidney stones. 
  2. A kidney stone develops when these crystals attach to one another, accumulating into a small mass or stone. The types of kidney stones include calcium stones, struvite stones, uric acid stones, and cystine stones.
  3. The urine of humans has minerals and salts. Generally, these minerals and salts are diluted and released out of the body without any problem. But, when these minerals and salts get concentrated due to a decrease in the urine volume, they will form crystals and these crystals are known as kidney stones.

What are the Risk Factors of Kidney Stones?

  1. Increased fat level
  2. Not drinking sufficient water (dehydration)
  3. A diet high in protein and salt
  4. Changes in the digestive process that affect your absorption of calcium and water, increasing the amounts of stone-forming substances in your urine
  5. An increased level of the parathyroid
  6. Inflammatory bowel disease may increase the deposition of calcium in the body.
  7. Take certain medicines like diuretics and calcium-based antacids.
  8. History of kidney stones in your family
  9. Other medical conditions include renal tubular acidosis, cystinuria, and urinary tract infection.
  10. Take certain supplements such as vitamin C, laxatives (when used overly), and medicines used to treat depression and migraine.

How are Kidney Stones Diagnosed?

In most cases, people are diagnosed with kidney stones when they have experienced a disturbing pain onset. This pain is caused when the stone breaks from its origin. 

  1. History and physical examination: When the doctor diagnoses the kidney stones, then the doctor may do a physical examination and also evaluate the complete history of the patient. In addition, he may check for any previous history of kidney stones. 
  2. Urine analysis: The doctor may also perform a urine analysis. It is done to check the presence of blood or infection in the urine.  
  3. Blood tests: The doctor may also advise blood tests to determine the blood count and check the kidney function. 
  4. Imaging methods: The doctor may also advise imaging tests like computed tomography (CT). This test helps in showing kidney stones in the urinary tract. These are very helpful because they can sense even a tiny stone in the urinary tract.

How are Kidney Stones Treated?

Treatment for Small Stones

  1. Drinking water: The patients will be advised to drink about 1.8 to 3.6 litres of water every day. Drinking sufficient water will help in keeping your urine diluted. Dilute urine may also prevent the formation of stones. 
  2. Pain killer medicines: There may be discomfort while passing small stones through the urine. It may cause pain. To decrease this pain, the doctor will prescribe some pain killer medicines. 
  3. Medicines to flush out the stones:  the doctor may order some medicines like alpha-blockers, which help pass the stone through the urinary tract. These medicines relax the ureter and allow passage to the stones. 

Treatment for Large Stones

  1. Surgery: A procedure known as percutaneous nephrolithotomy is done to remove the stones from the urinary tract. It involves the use of a telescope and an instrument. The doctor got the entry into the stone through a small incision on the back. The procedure is done under the influence of general anaesthesia.
  2. Using sound waves: A procedure known as extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy breaks certain types of stones depending on their size and location. This method uses sound waves to develop a strong vibration focused on where the stones are present. These vibrations cause the stones to break into smaller fragments. 

What May Happen if Kidney Stones are Not Treated in Time?

Apart from causing the symptoms like pain and bloody urine, there may be some serious complications like:- 

  1. Severe infection such as blood poisoning. It may be life-threatening
  2. Loss of kidney function
  3. Damage to the kidney
  4. Bladder blockage (in case of large stones)

Progression of Kidney Stones

There are four stages of passing the kidney stones

  1. In the First Stage, the stone is in the kidney and detaches from the inner wall of the kidney. It is the point when the person notices something wrong with their kidney.
  2. In the Second Stage, the stone is in the path of the ureter.
  3. In Stage Three, the stone reaches the bladder.
  4. It is the Last Stage. In this stage, the stone is excreted out through the urine. 

When to Consult a Doctor?

You should immediately consult a doctor under the following conditions:-

  1. Blood in your urine.
  2. Facing difficulty in urinating
  3. Having chills and fever
  4. Radiating pain in your lower abdomen to the lower back
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