Kidney Stones

A kidney stone is a hard, crystalline mineral material formed within the kidney or urinary tract. One in every 20 people develops kidney stones sometime in their life. Kidney stones usually form when there is a decrease in the urine output and there is a presence of excess of stone forming substance in the urine. Dehydration is a major risk factor and the symptoms include flank pain and the presence of blood in the urine.

What is kidney stone?

As mentioned earlier, kidney stone is a hard, crystalline mineral material formed within the kidney or urinary tract and often causes severe pain in the abdomen, flanks and the groin region with blood in the urine. They are also sometimes called renal calculi. Having stones in the kidney is called nephrolithiasis and stones in the urinary tract are reffered to as urolithiasis.

Who is at risk?

It has been observed that kidney stones are usually formed easily in those with certain disease conditions or taking cert ain kind of medications. Urinary tract stones are seen more in men than in women. Urinary stones develop in people between the age of 20 to 49 years. People who are prone to multiple attacks of kidney stones usually develop their first stone during the second or third decade of their life. Those who have one or more attack of kidney stone are more likely to get more attacks.

Certain dietary habits and family history of kidney stone along with pregnancy related raise in uric acid leads to kidney stone formation.

What causes kidney stone?

Decrease in urine output along with increase in chemicals in the urine like calcium, uric acid, magnesium ammonium phosphate and amino acids causes kidney stone formation. Dehydration from reduced fluid intake or strenuous exercise and any obstruction in urine flow also causes the disease. Any injury or infection in the urinary system also can lead to kidney stones and stones in the urethra.

Signs and symptoms of kidney stone

Some kidney stones are silent and may not cause any symptoms while some people who have kidney stones report of sudden and excruciating, cramping pain in their low back and side, groin or abdomen. Changing body positions may not relieve the pain and the pain waxes and wanes in severity. The pain is so severe that it causes nausea and vomiting. Urine may contain blood and the infection if present causes fever and chills. Other common symptoms are difficulty in urinating, urine urgency, penile pain and testicular pain.

How is kidney stones diagnosed?

Kidney stones are first diagnosed with the typical symptoms and the severity of pain. Imaging tests are then carried out to confirm the diagnosis. A non-contrast CT scan is done prior to any surgery. Since CT scan exposes the patient to significant radiation the same is not advisable in pregnant women and so an ultrasound along with abdominal X-ray is ideal.

Treatment for kidney stone

Kidney stones usually do not require any medical intervention but the pain, infection and related conditions require medical attention. The kidney stone passes through the urinary tract on their own, within 48 hours with ample fluid intake. The doctor administers pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs to control the severe pain. Some medications are given to increase the passage rate of the stones. For stones that do not pass a procedure called lithotripsy is performed. In the procedure shock waves are used to break the stones to smaller pieces and then allowed to pass out through the urine. Various surgical methods including the ureteroscope is used to extract the stone from the ureter.