A kidney stone is a hard, crystalline material formed within the kidney or urinary tract. Kidney stones cause pain in the abdomen, flank, or groin. They can also result in passage of blood in the urine (hematuria). The condition of having kidney stones is termed nephrolithiasis. Having stones at any location in the urinary tract is referred to as urolithiasis.
WHAT CAUSES KIDNEY STONE?
Kidney stones form when there is a decrease in urine volume and/or an excess of stone-forming substances in the urine. The most common type of kidney stone contains calcium in combination with either oxalate or phosphate. About 75% of kidney stones are calcium stones. Other chemical compounds that can form stones in the urinary tract include uric acid, magnesium ammonium phosphate (which forms struvite stones; see below), and the amino acid cystine.
Dehydration from reduced fluid intake or strenuous without adequate fluid replacement increases the risk of kidney stones. Obstruction to the flow of urine can also lead to stone formation. In this regard, climate may be a risk factor for kidney stone development, since residents of hot and dry areas are more likely to become dehydrated and susceptible to stone formation.
Kidney stones can also result from infection in the urinary tract; these are known as struvite or infection stones. Metabolic abnormalities, including inherited disorders of metabolism, can alter the composition of the urine and increased incidence of kidney stones.
WHAT ARE KIDNEY STONE SYMPTOMS AND SIGNS?
While some kidney stones may not produce symptoms (known as "silent" stones), people who have kidney stones often report the sudden onset of excruciating, cramping pain in their low back and/or side, groin, or abdomen. Changes in body position do not relieve this pain. The abdominal, groin, and/or back pain typically waxes and wanes in severity, characteristic of colicky pain (the pain is sometimes referred to as renal colic). It may be so severe that it is often accompanied by vomiting. The pain has been described by many as the worst pain of their lives, even worse than the pain of childbirth or broken bones. Kidney stones also cause passage of blood in the urine. If infection is present in the urinary tract along with the stones, there may be and. Sometimes, symptoms such as difficulty in urination, urinary urgency, penile pain may occur due to kidney stones
HOW IS KIDNEY STONES DIAGNOSED?
The diagnosis of kidney stones is suspected when the typical pattern of symptoms is noted and when other possible causes of the abdominal or flank pain are excluded. Imaging tests are usually done to confirm the diagnosis. A helical CT scan without contrast material is the most common test to detect stones or obstruction within the urinary tract. Formerly, an intravenous pyelogram (IVP; an X-ray of the abdomen along with the administration of contrast dye into the bloodstream) was the test most commonly used to detect urinary tract stones, but this test has a greater risk of complications, takes longer, and involves higher radiation exposure than the non-contrasted helical CT scan. Helical CT scans have been shown to be a significantly more effective diagnostic tool than the IVP in the diagnosis of kidney or urinary tract stone
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR KIDNEY STONES? HOW LONG DOES IT TAKES TO PASS A KIDNEY STONES?
Most kidney stones eventually pass through the urinary tract on their own within 48 hours, with ample fluid intake. Pain killers and narcotics may be used for pain control. Intravenous pain medications can be given when nausea and vomiting are present.
Although there are no proven home remedies to dissolve kidney stones, home treatment may be considered for patients who have a known history of kidney stones. Since most kidney stones, given time, will pass through the ureter to the bladder on their own, treatment is directed toward control of symptoms. Home care in this case includes the consumption of plenty of fluids. If further pain medication is needed, stronger narcotic pain medications may be recommended.
There are several factors which influence the ability to pass a stone. These include the size of the person, prior stone passage, prostate enlargement, pregnancy, and the size of the stone. A 4 mm stone has an 80% chance of passage while a 5 mm stone has a 20% chance. Stones larger than 9 mm-10 mm rarely pass without specific treatment.
Some medications have been used to increase the passage rates of kidney stones. Alpha blockers may be prescribed to some people who have stones that do not rapidly pass through the urinary tract.
For kidney stones that do not pass on their own, a procedure called shock wave lithotripsy is often used. In this procedure, shock waves are used to break up a large stone into smaller pieces that can then pass through the urinary system.
Surgical techniques have also been developed to remove kidney stones when other treatment methods are not effective. This may be done through a small incision in the skin (percutaneous nephrolithotomy) or through an instrument known as an ureteroscope passed through the urethra and bladder up into the ureter.
HOW CAN KIDNEY STONES BE PREVENTED?
Rather than having to undergo treatment, it is best to avoid kidney stones in the first place when possible. It can be especially helpful to drink more water, since low fluid intake and dehydration are major risk factors for kidney stone formation.
Depending on the cause of the kidney stones and an individual's medical history, dietary changes or medications are sometimes recommended to decrease the likelihood of developing further kidney stones. If one has passed a stone, it can be particularly helpful to have it analyzed in a laboratory to determine the precise type of stone so specific prevention measures can be considered.