Your Guide to Kidney Stones
The kidneys are a vital part of the urinary tract. These small organs connect to the bladder through ureters. They are responsible for filtering waste and toxins from the blood. The kidneys also produce a hormone that causes blood vessels to constrict, which affects blood pressure. Additionally, the kidneys make a hormone, erythropoietin, that stimulates the production of red blood cells within bone marrow. With these and other important tasks, the kidneys face a fair amount of physical stress. Under certain conditions, small calcium formations may develop in one or both kidneys. Here, we discuss how this can happen and what to do about kidney stones if they do occur.
What are Kidney Stones, and What Causes Them?
The term kidney stones implies that formations develop only in the kidneys. This isn’t necessarily true for everyone. Kidney stones may also occur in the urethra or the bladder. Crystals can form within any of these structures when the ratio of fluid to wastes in the blood is imbalanced. Too much waste and too little fluid may allow certain particles to stick together. This is what we refer to as kidney stones.
Types of Kidney Stones
Common types of kidney stones include:
- Calcium stones. This is the most common type of kidney stone diagnosed today. These stones are made of calcium and oxalate, a chemical that is contained in most foods. Some calcium stones are comprised of calcium and phosphate.
- Uric acid stones. This type of kidney stone develops when the urine is highly acidic. Uric acid particles may clump together on their own or with calcium particles.
- Struvite stones. This type of kidney stone is made of ammonium, magnesium, and phosphate. Struvite stones may result from urinary tract infections that cause a buildup of ammonia in the urine.
- Cystine stones. The body naturally makes a chemical called cystine. In rare cases, cystine can escape the kidneys and enter the urine. Cystine kidney stones are associated with a genetic disorder.
Symptoms of Kidney Stones
Smaller kidney stones may develop and pass without any symptoms whatsoever. Larger stones, on the other hand, may pass with symptoms such as:
- Sharp, intense pain in the lower abdomen or back
- Blood in the urine
- Difficulty urinating due to blockage from a large stone
- Nausea or vomiting
Do Kidney Stones Need Treatment?
Some kidney stones can pass on their own with the assistance of pain medication and adequate hydration (drink plenty of water). Others need to be broken into smaller fragments so they can pass more easily. To determine the best approach to kidney stones, a urologist will order tests to measure size and location.
If you suspect that you may have a kidney stone, don’ suffer needlessly. Schedule a consultation at our Chattanooga office. Dr. Shridharani can evaluate your symptoms and develop a plan of care tailored to your needs. To arrange your visit, call (423) 778-4MEN (4636).