Kidney stones: Causes, Symptoms, treatment and more
About 50% of the Indian population that is expected to have urinary stones may end up with loss of kidney functions. In fact, every year, more than half a million people have to go to emergency rooms for kidney stone related problems.
Book your kidney function test right away, if you have been delaying it for long. Please note this test has got other names as well, such as renal profile test or renal function test. “Renal” means connected to your kidneys.
What exactly is a kidney stone?
Kidney stone is a solid, pebble-like piece of material that can form in one or both of your kidneys. Urine contains various wastes dissolved in it. Usually, these waste materials are eliminated by the body's filter, the kidney. When the urine is too concentrated or there is too much waste in too little liquid, crystals may begin to produce. Other elements (like calcium, oxalate, urate, cystine, xanthine, and phosphate) get attached to the crystals and together form a solid. This piece will get larger unless it is passed out of the body with the urine.
Some stones stay there in the kidney(s), but do not cause any troubles. A few kidney stones are as small as grains of sand, others can be as large as a golf ball. At large, the bigger the stone, the more noticeable are the kidney stone symptoms.
Along with your kidneys, make sure to schedule basic health checkup. Check out the full body checkup cost here.
What do kidney stones feel like?
Symptoms could be one or more of the following:
- Severe pain on either side of your lower back.
The pain often starts suddenly and appears in waves.
- Vague pain or stomach ache that doesn't go away
- Blood in the urine
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fever and chills
- Foul-smelling or cloudy urine
How are kidney stones diagnosed?
1. Medical and dietary history
Have you had more than one stone before? Has anyone in your family had kidney stones? Both of these can up your risk of developing a kidney stone. Also, you may be eating foods that are known to increase the risk of stones or not drinking enough fluids.
A deep understanding of your medical, family and dietary history enables your doctor to find out how likely you are to form more stones.
2. Blood and Urine Tests
After taking a complete history and doing a physical exam, you may be asked for blood and urine culture and sensitivity test samples. Urine analysis helps check for urinary tract infection or crystals that are typical of different stone types.
3. Imaging Tests
Your doctor may want to see inside the urinary tract through X-ray. Imaging tests may be repeated over time to check for stone growth. An imaging like ultrasound or X-ray can be asked if you are having pain, blood in your urine, or recurrent urine infections.
4. Stone Analysis
If you pass a stone or a stone is removed by surgery, testing the stone will help identify what kind of stone it is. This helps your doctor to decide the best way to prevent future stones.
Apart from blood tests to check that your kidneys are working properly, the levels of substances that could cause kidney stones, such as calcium, can also be checked.
What may give you a kidney stone?
Low Urine Volume
A constant low urine volume that may come from dehydration (loss of body fluids) from hard exercise, working or living in a hot place, or not drinking enough fluids causes urine to become concentrated and dark in color. Concentrated urine means there is a high likelihood of developing stones. Hence, make sure you get enough fluid each day.
Calcium is a common element that contributes in developing kidney stones. One of the most common causes is high levels of calcium in the urine. Raised urine calcium levels may be due to the way your body handles calcium.
But it does not mean you need to lower the amount of calcium in your diet. It can be detrimental for bone health and may increase kidney stone risk. The idea is to lower urine calcium. One way to reduce your urine calcium level is by decreasing your salt (sodium) intake. Too much salt keeps calcium from being reabsorbed from the urine and into the blood. Lowering salt intake helps decrease urine calcium.
Other than this, eating foods rich in oxalate may also raise your risk of forming kidney stones.
Being obese may change the acid levels in your urine, that may lead to kidney stone formation.
Certain medical conditions that cause diarrhea or gastric discomfort (such as Crohn's Disease or ulcerative colitis) can raise the risk of developing kidney stones. This may happen due to diarrhea resulting in loss of large amounts of fluid from the body, that lowers urine volume.
Continuous diarrhea may also cause imbalance in electrolyte levels.
If you have a family history of kidney stones, it is important to keep an eye on symptoms and get tested early on.
Watch your kidney health with our carefully curated Kidney function test and ensure all parameters are within normal range.
How are kidney stones treated?
Treatment depends on various clinical factors including the type of stone, how large it is, and how long you have had the symptoms.
A few of the common options include:
Stone may pass by itself
It is highly likely for smaller stones to pass on their own through urine. No specific treatment is needed in this case. You can wait as suggested by your doctor as long as the pain is bearable and may need pain killers in between, there are no signs of infection.
Certain medications, like tamsulosin, make it easier for the stone to pass. Follow your doctor’s advice for medicine dosage.
You may need surgery for kidney stones if:
-The stone fails to pass.
-The pain is too much to bear
-The stone is affecting kidney function or causing infection.
Small stones in the kidney may be left alone if they are not causing pain or infection. These days, surgery usually involves small or no cuts), minimal pain and time off work. You can start off with normal activities after about one-to-two weeks.
Surgeries to remove stones in the kidneys or ureters may include Shock wave lithotripsy (SWL), Ureteroscopy (URS), Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL) at large. Open, laparoscopic or robotic surgery may only be needed if other less invasive procedures fail or seem to not work in your case.
Your doctor may ask for certain blood tests and X-rays while you are still being treated to monitor your condition. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you. Also, never forget to ask for tips to prevent stones in future.