Kidney stones are hard stone-like substance that forms in the kidneys. They may not trouble you as long as they are settled in one or both the kidneys. It is only when a kidney stone moves out of the kidney and enters the ureter (the tube that carries urine) on its way to the bladder that the pain begins. The pain can be from mild to severe depending on the size and shape of the kidney stone. The stone can block the flow of urine, and may cause bleeding too.
Kidney stone formation is a common occurrence and the stones are so tiny that they pass out with the urine without any hindrance. The larger ones may cause pain and make things miserable before making their way out of the body. A large stone may get stuck in the ureter causing pressure and pain. Chances of infection rise if the stone remains stuck in the ureter for long. This may also lead to damage of the kidneys.
Types of Kidney Stones
The crystals in the urine are responsible for kidney stones. When there is an imbalance in the minerals and salts found in the urine, it may lead to their formation. Different types of stones are formed depending on the salts present in the urine.
Calcium Stones: These are the most commonly occurring kidney stones.
75% to 85% of all kidney stone cases are calcium stone based. These stones comprise of calcium and oxalate, which are introduced to the body through the food we eat. Excessive intake of calcium and oxalate can help form calcium stones. Besides, excessive vitamin D intake, and hyperactive parathyroid glands can also cause kidney stones.
Struvite Stones: These stones are not very common and are found mostly in women. The bacteria that cause urinary tract infection are responsible for the production of ammonia. Struvite stones, also known as infection stones, are formed when there is excessive ammonia in the urine.
Uric Acid Stones: People who eat meat products in excess run the risk of forming uric acid stones, as meat ingestion leads to production of uric acid, a by-product of protein metabolism.
Cystine Stones: These are the least common of all stones and are made from cystine, an amino acid.
Cystinuria, a hereditary disorder, is responsible for the formation of cystine stones.
Preventing the Formation of Kidney Stones
If you are prone to kidney stones, or would like to avoid kidney stones in future, the most effective preventive measure is drinking a lot of fluids, especially water. Two to three liters of water a day is enough to flush your kidneys thoroughly of contaminants.
It would help to learn the type of stones that are formed in the kidneys, and the cause of formation too. You could change your eating habits accordingly and adjust the intake of certain types of salts and minerals that help in the formation of kidney stones. If you are prone to calcium stones, you could discuss the matter with your doctor, who may suggest you to lower your calcium intake.
Foods that are rich in calcium are milk and milk products, and leafy vegetables. If your kidneys have uric acid stones, then reducing your meat, poultry and fish intake will surely help. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to manage the uric acid level in the urine.
People, who get struvite stones, could be given antibiotics to help remove bacterial infection.
If you have had a kidney stone once, there is always a likelihood of its recurrence. Thus, it would be in your best interest to follow the advice on prevention.