What are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones are concentrated minerals and acid salts which accumulate in the kidney or the urinary system as crystal structures or stones. They occur when our body lacks fluids required to dissolve minerals and salts present in the urine. Initially the stones will be small and hard but if one does not get the right treatment at the right time, these kidney stones can get stuck in the kidney, ureter, bladder or the urethra and cause severe pain to the patient. Pain can be mostly experienced in the lower abdomen which can last up to 40 minutes and while passing urine. It is a very uncomfortable feeling for the patient.
How do Kidney Stones Look Like?
Kidney stones are mostly ball-shaped structures that take different shapes. Small stones usually pass out with urine. But if they accumulate, they can grow in size and may be rough or smooth on the edges. They usually appear to be red, brown or yellow in color. They form in different sizes ranging from as small as sand grains to the size of a golf-ball.
What Causes the Formation of Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones can be caused by one of the following reasons:
• Lack of enough fluids in the body
• High amounts of acids in the body
• Accumulation of substances such as oxalates and phosphates
• Urinary tract infections
• Genetically inherited
• Heavy salt intake
• Following a high protein diet and eating a lot of meat
Types of Kidney Stones Formed
• Calcium Stones- Calcium is a known essential building block of bones. When a person consumes a diet rich in calcium which are not needed by the bones, it is passed to the kidney. Kidney should usually flush out this excess calcium with urine. But when this does not happen, the excess calcium combines with by-products like calcium oxalates and phosphates to form kidney stones. These are the most common type of kidney stones.
• Struvite Stones- Also known as infection stones, these stones grow larger when compared to others. They are mostly related to genetic disorders and infections in the urinary tract. They are made up of minerals such as magnesium, ammonia and phosphates.
• Uric Acid Stones – They are formed by concentrated uric acid salts in the body. Avoiding meat intake for some time can help in controlling this stone.
• Cystine Stones – These stones are formed rarely and are usually hereditary. When cystine, an amino acid is inherited from a family member and becomes concentrated in urine, cysteine stones are formed.
Reasons Why Kidney Stones Form in Different Sizes
Formation of kidney stones is mostly divided into 4 main categories. This again depends on the type of cause for the formation of the stone. For example, struvite stones are known to form the largest when compared to other stones and is supposed to be more infectious in nature. Other stones such as Cystine stones are considered to be rare since they are genetic and small.
• Cause of the Stones
This is another factor that determines the size of a kidney stone. Different stones are caused by different causes. Stones caused by high sugars and low amounts of fluids in the body become larger compared to those formed due to infections in the urinary tract. This is because when there are high amounts of materials and little fluids, stones are not dissolved. Rather, it gets accumulated at one point.
• Treatment Measures
The intake of high amounts of fluids especially water is the easiest treatment for kidney stones. Water has the capacity to dissolve the minerals and salts present in these stones and flush them out through urine. The sizes vary with the amounts of fluids you consume every day. Medications meant to break down kidney stones also interfere with their sizes. The more effective the medications are, the smaller are the stones. If oral medicines do not work in the case of survite stones, a surgical procedure might be necessary. Quicker the detection of stones, faster and effective will be the treatment.
• Developing Point
When we talk about the developing point, we refer to the point where a stone is stuck in the kidney or has traveled to the urinary tract and is failing to pass out with urine. These stones cause pain when a person passes urine and even blood might come out with urine. Some stones get stuck in the kidney, ureter or even the bladder. Those that get stuck in bigger organs like bladder and kidney grow larger while those that get stuck in smaller organs such as ureter are small. Stones can get larger in size day by day and sometimes even block the hollow of the kidney and cause bruises on the inner wall of the urinary tract, if they reamin jagged.
• Patient’s Effort
When a person starts developing kidney stones and feels extreme pain or difficulty when passing urine due to a blockage, the best method of self-care especially if the stones are small is passing them out in urine. Drinking water consistently and observing if there is a reduction in pain is important. Even the change in urine color can help you understand if your water intake is adequate or not. Pain might be observed most commonly in the lower abdomen or the back, also symptoms like nausea, fever or vomiting is displayed. If the pain continues to persist even after taking some initial measures,consult the doctor at your earliest.
The Bottom Line
Kidney stone is not a life-threatening issue unless taken notice of and treated at the proper time. Therefore, if methods like regular water consumption, reducing meat intake, increasing dietary fiber or reducing salts does not work, consult the doctor and get yourself diagnosed. Treatment may take around a week or two, but if left untreated kidney stones may cause a dead kidney or damage the tissues surrounding it. Even recurrence of kidney stones is common if a person has reduced water consumption or does not continue the medications completely.