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What are Kidney Stones?

Kidney Stones

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that help in the removal of wastes from the body.

As the kidneys filter the blood of impurities, minerals and acid salts can accumulate and harden over time. These solid crystalline deposits are called kidney stones and can form in one or both kidneys. The stones can travel down the urinary tract and block the flow of urine, causing severe pain and bleeding.


Causes of Kidney Stones

Kidney stone formation is a common urinary system disorder that can form in any individual. However, men and overweight people are at a higher risk of developing them.

Kidney stones form when certain salts and minerals in the urine build up and become highly concentrated. This can happen due to:

  • Insufficient water intake
  • Diet high in salt and animal protein
  • Family history
  • Intestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease or previous gastric bypass surgery
  • Treatments for kidney diseases and cancer
  • Obesity


Symptoms of Kidney Stones

Symptoms of kidney stone formation usually do not manifest until the stone moves down into the urinary tract.

Symptoms may include:

  • Severe pain below the ribs on the sides
  • Pain may also occur over the lower abdomen, groin and during urination
  • Pain that fluctuates in intensity
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Pink, brown or red urine that is cloudy or foul smelling

You should visit the emergency department or contact your doctor immediately if the pain increases and is accompanied by fever, chills or vomiting.

Types of Stones

Types of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are usually of four main types based on their composition:

Calcium oxalate: This type of stone is common and occurs when calcium and oxalate combine in the urine. It may be associated with reduced water and calcium intake.

Uric acid: This type of stone forms when purine intake is increased. Purine can be found in organ meats such as liver and shellfish. This condition may run in families.

Struvite: This type of stone is associated with urinary tract infection and is not as common as the others.

Cystine: This type of stone is also rare and runs in families. It is formed due to excessive cystine levels in the urine. The stones are larger in comparison to other types and can recur after treatment.


Diagnosis of Kidney Stones

When kidney stones are suspected, your doctor may order blood, urine and imaging tests (X-ray, CT scans) to diagnose the condition. You may also be asked to urinate through a sieve to collect the kidney stones, to be tested in the lab. The results will help your doctor to determine the cause and formulate an appropriate plan for treatment.

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