Kidney Stone Disease

Kidney stones are a relatively common problem – they are found in one in ten Americans and the most common age group for development of kidney stones is 20-49. Men are more likely than women to develop kidney stones and a Caucasian male has a one in eight chance of developing kidney stones by the time he is 70. A family history of kidney stones means that you will be more likely to develop them yourself but you will not automatically develop them just because a close member of your family had them. A small number of pregnant women will also develop kidney stones at some point in their pregnancy.

What Causes Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones are caused when there is a decrease in urine volume or an increase in stone-forming substances in the urine, such as calcium, uric acid and cysteine.

Dehydration also increases your risk of kidney stones, whether it’s from not getting enough water or from not keeping yourself hydrated during exercise. Because of this, climate may be a risk factor for kidney stones as consistently living in a hot climate could mean that your body is frequently on the verge of dehydration.

Kidney stones are also formed if there is an infection in the urinary tract – these sorts of kidney stones are known as struvite stones.

A number of medical conditions can also contribute to the development of kidney stones, and they are as follows:

  • Gout – this disease results in increased amounts of uric acid in the urine and in the blood, which can lead to formation of kidney stones
  • Hypercalciuria – this is the medical term for having high levels of calcium in your urine. Too much calcium is absorbed into the system from food which can increase your risk of forming calcium kidney stones.
  • Diabetes and high blood pressure
  • Various metabolic conditions
  • Kidney disease
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease – more likely to develop kidney stones, especially if the individual has had a bypass or ostomy surgery
  • Various medications
  • Bad diet and lack of exercise

Symptoms of Kidney Stones

Some kidney stones do not produce any symptoms at all and these are known as silent stones. However, some individuals who report kidney stones develop sudden symptoms including excruciating pain in their lower back and side or in their groin or abdomen. This pain does not go away with simple movements and it isn’t controlled particularly well with painkillers.

The pain associated with kidney stones is sometimes so severe that it happens alongside feelings of nausea as well as vomiting. If an infection is present in the urinary tract along with the kidney stones you may see blood in your urine and there may also be fever and chills. The individual may also have difficulty or pain whilst urinating.

Treatment of Kidney Stones

Most kidney stones will pass on their own within 48 hours of the onset of pain as long as you take in ample fluids. An anti-inflammatory drug named Toradol can be used when over the counter pain medication is not effective and other narcotics may be used on the advice of a doctor. There are no proven home remedies for passing kidney stones and although many people advise various tonics and cleanses, these are not safe and can be particularly unpleasant in terms of the side effects. Home care will instead consist of pain control and taking in plenty of fluids in order to pass the stones.

When kidney stones do not pass on their own, a procedure called lithotripsy is used. This procedure uses shockwaves to break up the stones into smaller pieces, making them easier to pass. Other surgical techniques can be used but these are only used in severe cases.