What Are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones are hard, solid masses that form inside the kidney or along the urinary tract. Kidney stones can be as small as a single grain of sand or they can swell up to the size of a golf ball, or even larger.

Kidney stonesKidney stones are made up of small crystalline mineral materials that accumulate in the kidney and form the stones. In the medical community, they are known as nephrolithiasis and have an occurrence rate of 10%, which means that about a tenth of us will experience the unpleasantness of having kidney stones at some point in our lives.

So what are kidney stones caused by, and the types you may be susceptible from, as there are more than one.

What are kidney stones caused by?

Kidney stones come in different types based on the main chemical or mineral ingredient that caused them in the first place. There are:

• Calcium stones

What are calcium kidney stones? Calcium stones make up 75 to 80 percent of all kidney stones, making them the most prevalent type of stone. These are made up of calcium oxalate and phosphate. These are formed when there is an extremely high concentration of calcium in the urine and some traces of it get left in the kidney or urinary tract.

Calcium stones more commonly affect men than women, though, and they are most common between the ages of 20 and 30. They are also likely to come back after previous ones have been removed. This is because calcium can combine with other substances including oxalate, which is very commonly found in the foods we eat.

• Struvite stones

What are Struvite kidney stones? Struvite stones are the second most common type of kidney stone. They account for up to 15 percent of kidney stone occurrences.

Struvite stones, which are made up of ammonium and magnesium phosphate, are caused by an infection of a certain type of bacteria that affects the acid levels in the urine. This type of kidney stone, however, is more common in women; urinary tract infection can also increase the risk of developing struvite stones.

• Uric acid stones

What are uric acid kidney stones? Uric acid stones are not very common, accounting for only 5 to 8 percent of all stones. This is caused by high concentrations of uric acid in the blood and urine. Sometimes, they are accompanied by gout.

• Cystine stones

What are cystine kidney stones? Cystine stones are the rarest form of kidney stones. They are unique, however, because they are caused by a hereditary disorder called cystinuria, which tends to run in families and may affect both males and females.

This disorder increases the amount of cystine in a persons urine. Cystine is actually an amino acid that does not dissolve easily in water, which is why it tends to accumulate in the urine and may therefore develop into stones.

What are the symptoms of kidney stones?

What are kidney stones going to do to your body that one might say are classic symptoms for the presence of kidney stones?

Kidney stones usually manifest themselves through severe pain, usually in the flank, abdomen, or groin area. While pain may be caused by several possible causes, pain caused by kidney stones is sometimes accompanied by the presence of blood in the urine. Other kidney stones symptoms can include abnormal urine color, chills, fever, vomiting, and nausea.

In order to fully diagnose and treat kidney stones, a helical CT scan may be necessary. Although doctors in the past relied mainly on IVP or intravenous pyelogram, which is an x-ray of the abdomen, this option is said to be longer and riskier than a CT scan. If the patient is pregnant, however, exposure to radiation needs to be avoided; thus, an ultrasound examination might be the only option to help establish the presence of kidney stones.

If a kidney stone is diagnosed early, it can be caught before it grows in size. Thus, the first method of treatment used is to increase fluid intake so that the stone can pass through urine as soon as possible. To prevent inflammation, an anti-inflammatory drug Kerotolac/Toradol is administered.

If pain is unbearable, the patient is usually given over-the-counter pain control medications; if they are not effective, narcotic pain medications are also an option. If the pain is accompanied by nausea or vomiting, which will prevent the proper absorption of the drug, intravenous pain medications may be used.

Aside from diagnosing the presence of a kidney stone, some exams and tests may also be conducted to determine what kind of kidney stone is involved. This will help detect whether the patient is at risk of other conditions or is suffering from a chemical imbalance. For example, if the stone is identified as a uric acid stone, the patient may be given a test to determine his uric acid levels. Thus, necessary medical action may be taken to prevent the re-occurrence of the kidney stone.

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