What are Kidney Stones?

Kidney OverviewKidney stones, also known as renal calculi, are hard solid, crystal-like materials that form in the kidney or urinary tract from minerals in urine. Another term for the development of kidney stones is renal calculus. Urinary stones are classified according to their location. Located in the kidney it is called nephrolithiasis, located in the ureter it is ureterolithiasis, and kidney stones in the bladder are called cystolithiasis. They are also identified by their chemical composition: calcium-containing, struvite, uric acid, or other compounds.

What are the Symptoms of Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones usually exit the body in the urine stream in a process that does not cause any painful symptoms. If the stone grows to a larger size, reaching at least 3 millimeters in diameter, it can cause obstruction in urinary flow. Kidney stones are a common cause of blood in the urine (hematuria). They can also cause nausea, vomiting, fever, pus and often severe pain in the abdomen, flank, or groin. The pain can last for minutes or hours.

What are the Causes?

Kidney stones develop when low fluid intake reduces the volume of urine, causing an imbalance in the dilation of the minerals. The minerals grow more abnormally until they start to obstruct the urinary tract. Climate is also a risk factor for kidney stone development, since residents of hot and dry areas are more likely to become dehydrated, decreasing the volume of urine. But the most common cause of kidney stones is a poor diet. Too much intake of animal protein, sodium, refined sugars, oxalate, grapefruit juice, apple juice, and carbonated beverages stimulate an excess of stone-forming substances in the urine.

How do Doctors Diagnose Kidney Stones?

Patients will undergo a series of tests including physical examination, urinalysis, and radiographic studies. A specialist in the field, a Urologist, will conduct the tests. During the physical examination, the doctor will use an ultrasound or a CT scan to get a better view of the urinary tract. This will help the Urologist to locate the stones and decide which treatment to use.

Removing the Kidney Stones

When the stones become too large to pass and lead to severe complications, they can be removed surgically by means of extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy. This procedure uses shock waves to shatter the stone into smaller pieces. A bypass procedure works around the blockage to alleviate the symptoms and a tube maybe inserted in the ureter. Additional procedures include laser lithotripsy or percutaneous nephrolithotomy.