Kidney stones, or nephrolithiasis, are crystalized masses of salts and minerals that form within the kidneys and can travel down the urinary tract. These stones develop when a high concentration of these substances are found within a person’s urine.
Over the years, kidney stones have become increasingly common among men and women within the United States. They are considered one of the most common urinary tract disorders, accounting for over 300,000 emergency room visits and over a million healthcare provider visits every year.
There are several symptoms for kidney stones. However, often times you have no idea you have them until they begin their descent into the ureter. The level of pain experienced in passing a kidney stone varies. Larger stones can cause severe pain and require medical attention.
The most common symptoms of kidney stones are:
- Blood in urine
- Abdominal, groin, or flank pain
- Blocked urine flow
Kidneys are responsible for filtering substances that pass through your body. Kidney stones develop when the balance of fluid, minerals, salts, and other substances becomes heavily concentrated. One of the most common causes of this imbalance is dehydration.
Your risk factor in developing kidney stones can increase based on genetics, family history, and certain medical conditions. If you have a family member who is prone to developing kidney stones, your odds of developing them increases.
Also, once you develop a kidney stone for the first time, you become more prone to developing them again in the future.
Typical treatment includes an elevated intake of fluids to flush the stone out of your system. Doctors may prescribe pain medication to alleviate discomfort until the kidney stone passes on its own.
However, larger kidney stones, or stones causing obstruction will require medical intervention. In cases such as these, a lithotripter is used to break the kidney stone down into smaller pieces via shock waves.
Other treatments include surgical methods such as percutaneous nephrolithotomy, or the use of an ureteroscope with extraction via basket or treatment with laser.
The best way to avoid developing kidney stones is to keep your body hydrated. Although everyone’s body is different, most humans require an average of 8 to 10 glasses of water per day to function properly. People that make stones should have a voided urine volume of at least 2 liters/day.
Increased consumption of foods or liquids containing Vitamin D, Vitamin C, salt, protein, or high oxalates may also increase your risks of developing kidney stones, as well as high BMI and minimal physical activity.