What Are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones, also known as nephrolithiasis, renal calculi, or urolithiasis, are hard deposits made of chemicals such as salts and minerals found in urine. Kidney stones are very common, and according to the National Kidney Foundation, more than half a million people in the global population visit emergency rooms each year to address the problem.
Swallowing a stone does not cause a stone to pass in the urine. It develops through an accumulation of chemicals within your body. The smallest kidney stone can be the size of a pea and the largest can be the size of a golf ball. The Guinness World Record has recorded the largest stone over 5 inches in width. The larger a kidney stone becomes, the more difficult it is to pass on its own and eventually require surgery.
The sooner your condition is diagnosed, the easier it is to remove it from the body. However, if the kidney stone gets stuck in the tract or causes a urinary infection, your doctor may suggest a medical procedure.
What Are The Symptoms Of Kidney Stones?
If you develop small kidney stones, you may not even realize they have passed. But if the kidney stone is in significant proportion then they can see some signs like:
- Sharp pain in the back, side, and under the ribs
- Pain that varies in intensity
- Severe pain in the lower back and abdomen
- Burning sensation during urination
- Reddish-pink or brown urine
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased frequency of urination or frequent urination in small amounts
- Cloudy urine with a strong odor
- Fever with chills (if there is an infection)
- Blood in urine
Note that the above symptoms can be felt or seen only when the kidney stone has passed into the ureter or has started moving around the kidney. The ureter connects the kidney to the bladder and if a kidney stone gets stuck in the ureter (which is like a tube), it obstructs the flow of urine and causes painful narrowing of the ureter.
What Are The First Symptoms Of Kidney Stones?
The signs and symptoms of kidney stones can vary from person to person. Some possible signs that you may initially experience are:
- The intense pain (similar to the pain experienced during childbirth)
- Severe burning during urination (similar to a UTI)
- Hematuria (blood in the urine)
- Strong-smelling urine (a sign of infection)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain that causes discomfort when sitting
What Are The Causes Of Kidney Stones?
If you have had kidney stones before, you may experience a recurrence unless proper treatment is done.
A diet high in sugar, sodium, and protein (mainly shellfish and meat) increases the risk of kidney stone formation. Excess sodium in the diet increases the amount of calcium that the kidneys need to filter.
As mentioned above, dehydration is one of the major factors in the development of kidney stones. People who live in tropical countries with hot and humid climates or who sweat a lot every day find themselves at great risk.
A wide waist size, a body mass index that is 35 and above, and significant weight gain are some of the risk factors for kidney stones. Insulin resistance and metabolic disorders can lead to a higher chance of developing calcium oxalate kidney stones.
How Can You Prevent Kidney Stones?
The group at risk of having the highest rate of kidney stones is between the ages of 25 and 45. However, the incidence worsens after you reach 50. If you have had kidney stones before, you are more likely to have them again within a decade unless proper follow-up treatment is done.
Kidney stones can be prevented by making small and adjustable changes in your diet along with taking medicines on time. This includes:
- Calcium-Rich Diet
- Avoid Oxalate-Rich Foods
- Reducing Meat Protein
What To Do
- Drink 2-3 liters of water daily to generate almost clear urine
- Take pain relievers to reduce pain if you have kidney stones
- Take alpha-blocker medicines on time as prescribed by the doctor to help pass the stones easily
- Limit protein intake
- Eat a calcium-rich diet that is low in fat
What Should Not Be Done
- Avoid foods rich in sodium
- Do not eat foods containing oxalate
- Eat processed food
- Avoid drinking anything that dehydrates you, such as coffee, alcohol, or cola.
- Reduce sugar intake
- Do not consume foods with high fructose corn syrup.