Kidney stones are quite a common condition that affects more than 1 in 10 people. They are usually found in the kidneys or in the ureter, the tube that connects the kidney to your bladder. Kidney stones can sometimes be extremely painful and lead to kidney infections. If you have been diagnosed with kidney stones, you are probably wondering how you g0t them. So, how do you get kidney stones?
Kidney stones are the result of a buildup of certain chemicals in the body. In other words, they form when minerals in your urine clump together. You can get kidney stones from many things, such as what you eat and certain medications. One of the main causes of kidney stones is lack of water since you need water to make enough urine in order to water down the things that turn into stones. Some medical conditions, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes can also lead to kidney stones. Furthermore, if you or a member of your family has had a kidney stone before, your chances of having one in the future are higher.
Eager to learn more about kidney stones? Keep reading because we are going to discuss them below.
What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones are solid masses made of crystals. They typically originate in your kidneys, but they can also develop anywhere in your urinary tract, including the ureters, bladder, and urethra. Kidney stones can be as small as a grain of sand and you may be able to pass it in your pee without even knowing. However, in some rare cases, kidney stones can grow as big as a golf ball. Bigger kidney stones can block your urine flow and hurt a lot. Some people claimed that kidney stones are one of the most painful medical conditions and the pain can be worse than childbirth.
While passing kidney stones can be painful, the stones usually cause no permanent damage if they are found in a timely fashion. In some cases, passing kidney stones can be done by taking pain medications and drinking lots of water. However, if the stones become lodged in the urinary tract, cause complications, are too large, or are associated with a urinary infection, surgery may be needed.
Not all kidney stones are made up of the same crystals. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Below are the most common types of kidney stones:
- Calcium stones – this type of stone is known as the most common type of kidney stones. Calcium stones have two types, including calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate. The most common type of calcium stone is calcium oxalate. The risk of having calcium stones can increase if you have too much calcium in your urine. However, even though you have a normal amount of calcium in your urine, other reasons may cause calcium stones to form.
- Uric acid stones – uric acid stones are a waste product that comes from chemical changes in your body. These stones develop when your urine is too acidic. This type of stone is more common in men than in women and usually occurs in people who are going through chemotherapy or those with gout.
- Struvite/infection stones – struvite stones are not very common. They are mostly found in women who suffer from urinary tract infections (UTIs). Struvite stones can be large and they may cause urinary obstructions. Since they result from a kidney infection, treating the underlying infection can prevent struvite stones from developing.
- Cystine stones – cystine stones are rare. They occur in both women and men who have the genetic disorder cystinuria, which is a condition when someone has too much cystine in their urine. It is rare, inherited metabolic disorder that happens when your kidney fails to reabsorb cystine from the urine. When the urine contains high amounts of cystine it causes cystine stones to form. This type of stone usually starts to form in childhood.
What causes kidney stones?
You can get kidney stones for various reasons. They have no definite, single cause, but several factors may increase your risk. Some of the main causes of kidney stones are as follows.
Lack of water – one of the major causes of kidney stones is lack of water. If you do not drink enough, dehydrated (from hard exercise or working/living in a hot place), you will experience low urine volume. When your urine volume is low, your urine is dark in color and concentrated. Concentrated urine means that there is less fluid to dilute the things (salts) that can turn into stones. Eventually, constant low urine volume will cause kidney stones. In order to dilute salts in your urine, you need to increase your fluid intake. If you have had a stone before, you should make around 8 cups of urine in one day. Therefore, make sure to drink about 10 cups of water daily because you will lose some of your bodily fluids through breathing and sweat.
Diet – What you eat can play a big role in the forming of a stone. One of the most common types of kidney stones occurs when calcium and oxalate clump together while your kidneys make urine. Oxalate is present in many healthy foods. Your doctor may advise you to limit high-oxalate foods if you have had this type of stone before, such as grits, rhubarb, spinach, and bran cereal. You may have heard that drinking milk can cause kidney stones to form as they are high in calcium, but this is not true and can be bad for your bones. High levels of calcium in the urine may be caused by the way your body handles calcium and is not always due to the amount of calcium you eat. In order to reduce the risk of getting this type of stone, you may be advised to eat or drink calcium-rich food and foods with oxalate together as it helps your body to handle oxalate better.
Besides oxalate and calcium, you may want to watch your sodium intake. Sodium, which you mainly get through table salt, can raise your chances of getting several types of kidney stones. Therefore, make sure to be careful when you are eating salty snacks, packaged meats, canned foods, and other processed foods. Animal protein is another thing you need to watch out for in your diet. Shellfish and red meat can increase uric acid in your body, raises urine calcium level, and lowers the amount of citrate, all of which will encourage kidney stones to form.
Medical conditions – Some medical conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, gout, hyperparathyroidism, renal tubular acidosis, and certain genetic disease, can encourage one or more types of kidney stones to form.
Medication – Some medications, as well as calcium and vitamin C supplements, may increase your risk of forming stones. The medications that are commonly associated with the forming of kidney stones include certain antibiotics (such as sulfa antibiotics and ciprofloxacin), some drugs to treat HIV and AIDs, and certain diuretics that are used to treat high blood pressure. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider regarding the medications you are taking.
Family history – If you have a family history of kidney stones, such as your parent, your chance of getting kidney stones is much higher.
Pregnancy – Although very uncommon, pregnancies can cause kidney stones. Kidney stones occur in about 1 of every 1,500 to 3,000 pregnant women. They usually happen in the second or third trimester and is believed to be caused by changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy.
How do I know if I have kidney stones?
Kidney stones are known to cause severe pain. However, you may not experience symptoms of kidney stones until the stones begin to move down the ureters. The severe pain you feel once the stones move down the ureters is called renal colic. You may feel the pain on one side of your abdomen or back. In men, the pain can radiate through the groin area and even to the testicles. While the pain comes and goes, it can be intense.
Other symptoms of kidney stones are as follows:
- Blood in urine
- White blood cells or pus in the urine
- Burning sensation during urination
- Fever and chills (if there is an infection)
- Persistent urge to urinate
- Reduced amount of urine excreted
- Vomiting and nausea
What is the treatment for kidney stones?
Treatment for kidney stones mainly focuses on symptom management. The treatment for kidney stones may include:
Home remedies – If you have had kidney stones before, home remedies may be suitable. The first step is to drink enough water to make the urine completely clear. Your doctor may also request that your kidney stone is passed naturally through urinating. Then, they will ask you to retrieve a kidney stone from the urine by filtering it through gauze or sticking. You will be asked to bring the retrieved stone on your checkup to determine what further requirement is required.
Diet – Several foods can have a positive impact on the health of the kidney. Kidney beans, basil, apples, celery, grapes, and pomegranates are usually recommended to help you pass kidney stones.
Surgery – In some cases, a stone is too big to come out by itself. Your doctor may have to remove it through surgery. There are several operations to treat kidney stones, including shock wave lithotripsy (SWL), ureteroscopy, percutaneous nephrolithotomy, and open surgery.