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Kidney Stones: Types, Causes & Symptoms

What is a kidney stone?

Renal calculus or kidney stone is a solid crystalline piece of material that is formed in a kidney when urine becomes highly concentrated. In few cases, the salts and other minerals in urine stick together to form small stone like structures known as kidney stones. Most kidney stones are made up of calcium. Other components of a kidney stone include uric acid, magnesium ammonium phosphate, and the amino acid cysteine. The ones that are very small in size are usually harmless unless they cause intense pain. If they tend to break loose and push into the ureters, it results in bleeding. Either the stone stays in the kidney or it travels down the urinary tract.

Kidney stones are more prevalent in men than in women.

However, in some cases, a small percentage of pregnant women are susceptible to developing kidney stones. Pregnancy-related causes of kidney stones include

  1. Increased progesterone levels which slow down the passage of urine.
  2. Reduced intake of fluid due to decrease in bladder control.

Urolithiasis is the medical term used to describe stones occurring in the urinary tract, other than that it can also be referred to as urinary tract stone or nephrolithiasis.

Types of kidney Stones

The size of a kidney stone varies. It could just be the size of a grain of sand or as large as a pea. Very rarely, the size of the kidney stone can be as large as a golf ball.

The different types of kidney stones include

  • Uric Acid stones

This is more prevalent in people with gout. This type of kidney stone is more common in men than women. It is the result of high purine level (purine is a colourless substance in animal proteins) which increases urine’s acidic level. Consuming a lot of fish, shellfish and meat may increase production of uric acid in the urine.

  • Calcium stones

They are the most common type of stones made of calcium oxalate (most common), phosphate, or maleate. Eating fewer oxalate-rich foods can reduce the risk of developing this type of stone. These include spinach, rhubarb, Swiss chard, beets, peanuts and wheat germ. Also limit your sodium intake by keeping away from processed and fast food, canned soups, vegetables, and lunch meats. Replace animal protein with plant-based foods that are high in protein. These include legumes, soy-based food products, nuts and sunflower seeds.

  • Struvite/ infection stones

These are more common in women. The main cause of this type of kidney stone formation is a kidney infection. These stones cause obstruction in urination. This type of kidney stone forms all of a sudden and tends to increase its size rather quickly.

  • Cystine stones

Cystine (occurs naturally in the body) stones are rare which occurs both in men and women who have the genetic disorder cystinuria. Here the amino acid cysteine is excreted into the urine via the kidneys.

What causes kidney stones?

There are no specific reasons for its cause. As mentioned earlier it is formed when the urine cannot dilute crystal forming minerals such as calcium, oxalate, and uric acid. When these crystals stick together, it forms kidney stones.

Note: People who do not drink enough fluids (water to be specific) are at higher risk since their urine is more concentrated and not as easy to filter.

Other factors that increase the risks are people with:

  • A family history of kidney stones
  • Those who have had kidney stones before, especially before the age of 25.
  • Cystic kidney illness -disorders that cause fluid-filled sacs to form in the kidneys
  • Hyperparathyroidism- a condition where the parathyroid glands located in the neck, release too much hormone causing extra calcium in the blood
  • cystinuria –  A condition where the amino acid cysteine level is high in the urine
  • Hypercalciuria-This is an inherited condition. In this, a large amount of calcium is absorbed and the excess is excreted in the urine. This may lead to the formation of calcium phosphate or calcium oxalate kidney stones. Chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure) are also associated with a higher risk of kidney stone formation.
  • Renal tubular acidosis- acid build up in the blood
  • Hyperoxaluria-a condition in which urine contains unusually large amounts of oxalate
  • UTI- urinary tract infection
  • Hyperuricosuria- a condition where there is excessive uric acid in the urine
  • Gout- a condition where a large amount of uric acid is deposited in the blood and urine.
  • blockage of the urinary tract
  • Obesity
  • Chronic inflammation of the bowel exposes a patient to a higher chance of developing kidney stones.
  • Patients who have had ostomy surgery or an intestinal bypass surgery or a condition that affects the small intestine (Crohn’s disease, for example).
  • A history of gastrointestinal (GI) tract surgery
  • Others at increased risk of kidney stones are people taking certain medications including heavy doses of medication for treating HIV infection, diuretics, certain antibiotics, aspirin and antacids that contain calcium.

Symptoms of kidney Stones

The stones usually go unnoticed during urination if the size is small. The problem occurs until it starts moving to the ureter and blocks the urine flow, thus causing severe pain.

A urologist can help treat associated pain and prevent future complications such as urinary tract infections.

Listed below are a few symptoms of kidney stones that one should take notice of:

  • Pain in the abdomen or back
  • Pain spreading to the groin area or testicles
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Frequent or painful urination
  • Restlessness
  • Passing urine that is pink, red or brown in colour.
  • Passing urine that appears cloudy or has a foul odour.
  • Inability to pass urine or passing only a small amount of urine
  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Blood in the urine

Additional symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills

Home Remedies for treating Kidney Stone:

Given below are few home remedies that can be followed: 

  • Organic dandelion root: It acts as a good kidney tonic and cleanser.
  • Kidney Beans: It eases kidney stone pain.

  Direction:

  • Remove the beans from inside the pods
  • Boil the pods in purified hot water for six hours
  • Strain the liquid through cheesecloth
  • Cool and take it throughout the day for one day
  • Organic Celery: It helps prevent kidney stone formation.

  Direction:

Incorporate the celery in vegetable form. Celery seeds are great urine-promoters and kidney tonics.

  • Horsetail tea: It is an effective natural remedy for kidney stones.

  Direction:

Drink up to 3-4 cups of horsetail tea daily.

  • Basil: Also, known as a kidney tonic.

Daily consumption of basil tea can improve the overall kidney health.

   Direction:

Take one teaspoon each of basil juice with raw honey daily for up to six months.

  • Lemon Juice and Olive Oil: A mixture of lemon juice and olive oil helps in breaking the stones and flushing them out of the system.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV): Apple Cider Vinegar helps to break apart and flush out stones.

  Direction:

Take an apple cider vinegar tonic first thing in the morning (empty stomach), again around mid-day, and a third time in the evening to gain the health benefits of this incredible natural remedy and to get rid of the kidney stones at the same time.

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