How do kidney stones form?

  • Kidney stones form when minerals and salts from urine build up in the kidneys, crystallize, and stick together.  
  • A high protein diet can cause kidney stone formation.
  • There are different types of kidney stones depending on their mineral content. 

There are several causes of kidney stones, including diet, being overweight, some medical conditions, and certain medications and supplements. Passing kidney stones don’t usually cause permanent damage if recognized early, but they can be quite painful when they start moving to your bladder. Treating kidney stones depends on your health condition. 

Symptoms

A kidney stone often causes symptoms when it moves around in the kidney or tries to move to the bladder. If it gets stuck in the ureters, the tube that connects the kidney and bladder, it may block urine flow, causing kidney swelling and spasm in the ureter, which can cause extreme pain and the following symptoms:

  • Severe, sharp pain in the side s of the abdomen, lower back, and groin
  • Pain that fluctuates in intensity
  • Pain while urinating
  • Change in urine color
  • Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
  • Urinating often or in small amounts
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever and chills if there’s an infection

Pain caused by a kidney stone may shift to a different location or increase in intensity with each movement of the stone within the urinary tract. 

See your doctor immediately if you experience the following: 

  • Severe pain that makes you very uncomfortable 
  • Pain with nausea and vomiting
  • Pain with fever and chills
  • Blood in your urine
  • Difficulty urinating

Causes

There’s no definite, single cause of kidney stones, although there are several risk factors for it. 

Kidney stones form when your urine contains high concentrations of calcium, oxalate, and uric acid but lack substances that prevent these minerals’ crystallization.

Types of kidney stones

The type of kidney stone you have can help determine its cause and provide clues on how you can prevent getting more kidney stones. Try to keep your kidney stone if you pass one for a doctor’s analysis. 

The types of kidney stones include:

  1. Calcium stones. Most kidney stones are in the form of calcium oxalate. Oxalate is produced by your liver or from your diet. Nuts, chocolates, and certain fruits and vegetables contain oxalate. High doses of vitamin D, metabolic disorders, and intestinal bypass surgery can also raise the calcium or oxalate concentration in urine. Calcium stones may also be in calcium phosphate form, which is more common in metabolic conditions. It may also be caused by certain medications used for the treatment of migraines or seizures. 
  2. Struvite stones. Struvite stones are byproducts of urinary tract infections. These stones grow fast with little warning.
  3. Uric acid stones. Uric acid stones may form in people who suffer dehydration because of chronic diarrhea or malabsorption, have diabetes or metabolic syndrome, and consume excessive protein. There may also be a genetic factor involved. 
  4. Cystine stones. People with a hereditary disorder called cystinuria usually develop these stones. The condition causes the kidneys to excrete excessive amounts of specific amino acids.

Risk factors

Your risk of developing kidney stones increases if you have the following factors: 

  • Family or personal history. You’re at high risk of developing stones if someone in your family has had kidney stones. You’re also at risk of having more if you’ve had it before. 
  • Dehydration. People who don’t drink enough fluids, or live in warm, dry climates, or sweat a lot, may have higher risks of developing kidney stones.
  • Certain diets. A high-protein, high-sodium, and high-sugar diet may increase your kidney stone risk. 
  • Obesity. Having a high body mass index (BMI) and large waist measurement can increase your kidney stones risk.
  • Digestive diseases and surgery. Changes in the digestive processes due to chronic diarrhea, gastric bypass surgery, or inflammatory bowel disease can affect your absorption of calcium and water.
  • Other medical conditions such as repeated urinary tract infections, renal tubular acidosis, cystinuria, and hyperparathyroidism also put you at risk of developing kidney stones. 
  • Certain supplements and medications, such as dietary supplements, laxatives, calcium-based antacids, vitamin C, and certain medications for migraines or depression, can increase your risk of kidney stones.

Source: Mayo Clinic


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