Kidney stones develop when dissolved minerals build up inside the kidneys. A low fluid consumption, dietary factors, and a person’s medical history may contribute to their development. Kidney stones may be small and pass unnoticed through the urinary tract, but some grow to the size of a golf ball. Larger stones can cause severe pain as they leave the body. Without treatment, kidney stones can lead to urinary problems, infections, and kidney damage. Kidney stones are a common problem in the United States, and the incidence appears to be growing. Dietary factors and climate change may contribute to this increase, according to one study. In this article, we look at how to recognize kidney stones and explain what to do if they occur.
There are four different types of stone: calcium, uric acid, struvite, and cystine. Calcium stones form when the kidneys retain the excess calcium that the muscles and bones do not use, rather than flushing it out of the body. The calcium combines with other waste products to form crystals, such as calcium oxalate, which clump together to make a stone. Uric acid stones result from a lack of water in the body. Urine contains uric acid. When there is not enough water to dilute the uric acid, the urine becomes more acidic. Struvite stones can form after a UTI. They consist of magnesium and ammonia. Cystine stones develop when cystine, a substance present in the muscles, builds up in urine. These are rare. The American Urological Association say that people who are susceptible to kidney stones should consume enough fluid to produce 2.5 liters (l), or about 85 ounces (oz), of urine each day. On average, this means consuming close to 3 l, or about 100 oz, of fluid a day. Not all of this needs to come from water. Apart from dehydration, factors that increase the risk of kidney stones include: being aged 40 years or older, although they can sometimes affect children sex, as they are more common in males than females a diet that is high in protein and sodium health conditions that affect how the body absorbs calcium, such as inflammatory bowel disease and chronic diarrhea Various medications, such as allopurinol (Zyloprim) and topiramate (Topamax), can also increase the risk. People should check with their doctor if they have concerns about any medications they are taking.
Treatment will focus on managing symptoms and removing the stone. There are various ways to do this. a high intake of fluids by mouth or intravenously medications to help speed up the passage of stones How long do kidney stones take to pass? Large stones may need other types of intervention, such as shock wave lithotripsy (SWL), ureteroscopy, or percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL). SWL involves the use of ultrasound waves to break the stone into smaller pieces to make it easier to pass. If a doctor opts to use ureteroscopy, they will pass a long, thin tube through the person’s urethra as far as the ureter, which connects the bladder and the kidney. They will then use laser energy to break up the stone. PCNL involves passing a long, thin instrument through the back and into the kidney, where it can break up or remove the stone using laser energy. This procedure requires general anesthesia. There may be a risk of complications, such as an infection, after removing a large kidney stone. A doctor should explain the possible complications beforehand so that if any develop, a person can recognize the signs.
Some foods may benefit kidney health and help reduce the risk of kidney stones. Guidelines from the American Family Physician (AFP) note that people have long used herbal remedies for kidney stones. However, there is uncertainty regarding their safety, effectiveness, and possible interactions with other drugs. The AFP add, though, that: phytonutrients in green tea, berries, and turmeric may help prevent infection Agropyron repens (couch grass) may help flush out the urinary tract Proponents of natural remedies note that other foods and supplements that may help protect the kidneys include: Some research suggests that vitamin D deficiency is common among people with kidney stones, but there is not enough evidence to show that vitamin D supplements are safe or effective for preventing stones. Some people drink kidney bean broth to help the stones pass. People can make the broth by boiling the pods inside the beans for about 6 hours and then straining them. Once the liquid has cooled, they can consume some every 2 hours for 1–2 days. However, it is important to note that there is no scientific evidence to confirm that this is effective. Limiting foods that contain the following substances may help prevent stones from developing: Oxalate is present in many common foods, such as: However, people should not completely avoid foods containing oxalates, calcium, and protein, as they can have other nutritional benefits. Learn more about the kidney stone diet.