Kidney Stone Symptoms, Facts, Risk And Treatment
Kidney stones are small crystalline formations in the urinary tract, the passage through which we pass urine, or within the kidney itself. They are formed when certain conditions occur in the urine creation process. They can be very painful, but are not fundamentally dangerous. Most kidney stones will pass of their own accord, but in rare cases surgery may be needed to remove them. Here we will take a look at kidney stone symptoms, explain what they are and how they come about, and cover other subjects such as kidney stone treatment and prevention. Let’s begin by looking at the symptoms of kidney stones.
What Are Kidney Stone Symptoms And Signs?
It is entirely possible that kidney stones do not present any symptoms; these are known as ‘silent stones’. Common symptoms, if they are present, include the following:
- Extreme pain in the back, groin and/or abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting – generally as a result of the above
- Blood in the urine
- Fever and chills
- Difficulty urinating and testicular pain
Any of the above can be symptomatic of kidney stones and should be investigated.
Here are some facts that may help you to understand kidney stones:
- Kidney stones are formed when urine production slows
- Dehydration can play a part in forming kidney stones
- Some medical conditions can cause kidney stones – gout, for instance
- Some medications may also have an effect – check with your doctor
- Surgery is rarely needed as most kidney stones pass of their own accord
What Is a Kidney Stone?
A kidney stone is a hard stone-like formation that occurs in the urinary tract or the kidney when given the right circumstances. It will usually pass through the system without problem, but can be a painful experience for many patients. It is formed when the substance that causes its formation is not flushed out often enough, or when the flow of urine is reduced. Kidney stones are quite a common occurrence, and are not in fact dangerous.
Who Is At Risk For Kidney Stones?
The truth is that anyone can be at risk from kidney stones, but there are some groups of people who run a higher risk of suffering. Kidney stones in the urinary tract are more likely in men than in women; people between the ages of 20 and 49 are the highest risk group in terms of age. Those that have already suffered are more likely to do so again. Family history of kidney stones can also lead to a higher chance of suffering. Anyone suffering from gout has a much higher chance of having kidney stones. Also, they are known to be more likely in pregnant women. There are some illnesses and infections that can also lead to kidney stones – see below for more details.
Kidney stones are caused when the urine flow is too low to flush out calcium and other substances from the system. Three quarters of all kidney stones are calcium. Uric acid, magnesium and cystine are other substances in the body that can create kidney stones. Dehydration is a cause of kidney stones, as are a number of infections of the urinary tract. The following illnesses can also lead to kidney stones:
- Gout – dramatically increases the uric acid content
- High calcium in the urine – a condition known as Hypercalciuria
- Chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure
- Kidney diseases
- Inflammatory bowel disease
Also, some medications can increase the risk of kidney stones, including a number of diuretics, and a poor diet without adequate fluid intake can also have an effect.
How Are Kidney Stone Diagnosed?
Kidney Stone Diagnosis will follow the usual course, with the doctor asking the patient about their lifestyle and other recent illnesses. The source of the abdominal pain – if that is the symptom – will be investigated to eliminate other possible illnesses. The patient will most likely undergo a scan to help detect the presence of kidney stones. Ultrasound examinations may be used in the case of pregnant women.
The treatment of kidney stones is limited and, in most cases, the stones will pass naturally within 48 hours. However, if there are problems then there are anti-inflammatory drugs that can be administered, mainly to help with pain control. Patients will also be encouraged to drink plenty of water, and in the case of serious pain issues there are intravenous drugs that can be administered. There are medications that have been used to speed up the passing of a stone, but they are not widely prescribed. In the case of particularly stubborn kidney stones there is a procedure known as lithotripsy: this uses mechanically produced shock waves to break the stone into smaller pieces so that it can pass more easily. Surgery is also possible, and is usually done via a small incision or through the urethra. This is a last course of action in most cases.
How Can Kidney Stone Be Prevented?
Avoidance of kidney stones is a sensible course of action and with the right attention to detail it is quite easy to greatly reduce the risk of suffering. You should:
- Keep up a regular fluid intake
- Change any medication that may add to the risk
- Limit consumption of high-oxalate foods such as spinach, wheat germ and peanuts.
- Keep to a sensible balanced diet
Kidney stones are not dangerous, and they will usually pass through the system on their own. There are techniques to break up eve the biggest kidney stones and help them to pass. Be aware that if you have suffered once you are more likely than others to do so again.
How Long Does It Take To Pass A Kidney Stone?
The length of time taken to pass a kidney stone naturally varies from patient to patient; however, if all goes to plan it should take place within 48 hours of formation. If you find you are waiting longer, return to your doctor for further advice.
How Can You Tell A Kidney Stone From A Kidney Infection?
The only guaranteed way to tell a kidney stone from a kidney infection is to have the symptoms investigated by a doctor; in general, the excruciating pain from a kidney stone will be worse than that of an infection, but many of the symptoms can be very similar. If you do suspect you have kidney stones you should seek medical advice right away.
We hope that this article has helped you to understand more about kidney stones, as well as how they form, what they are and the treatment that is needed to get rid of them.