A stone in the urinary tract is a hard, solid substance that has formed inside one of your kidneys or ureters.
It may be made up of minerals and salts dissolved from your urine. The most common type of kidney stone is calcium oxalate (CaOx).
Calcium oxalate stones form when too much calcium builds up in your body.
This can happen if you eat foods with high levels of calcium such as dairy products, nuts, seeds, beans, leafy greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, spinach, kiwi fruit, oranges, strawberries, peaches, plums, prunes, cherries, apricots, figs, raisins, pears, mangoes, papaya, pineapple, melons, watermelon, eggplant, mushrooms, potatoes, bananas, avocados, sweet potato, yams, carrots, parsnips, turnip, garlic, onions, tomatoes, celery, peas, soybeans, wheat bran, whole-grain cereals, and some types of seafood.
If you have an inherited condition called hypercalciuria, which causes your kidneys to produce more calcium than normal, you’re at higher risk for forming calcium oxalate stones.
Other factors that increase the chance of developing kidney stones include:
• Being male
• Having diabetes
• Eating lots of red meat
• Drinking alcohol
• Taking certain medications, including diuretics
• Smoking cigarettes
• Using laxatives
• Having low fluid intake
• Having poor nutrition
• Having a family history of kidney stones
The symptoms of a kidney stone vary depending on where it is located in the body. Symptoms usually begin gradually, but they can get worse quickly.
They often occur after eating large amounts of food or drinking fluids. You might feel pain in your side, back, groin, abdomen, or pelvis.
Pain may spread to other parts of your body. Your doctor will check for signs of infection, blood in your urine, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, or unusual weight loss.
Treatment depends on how big the stone is and where it is located. If the stone is small enough to pass naturally, your doctor may recommend watching what you eat and drink.
For larger stones, treatment options include:
• Medications that dissolve the stone
• Surgery to remove the stone
• Shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL)
• Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL)
• Extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy (SWL)
Shock Wave Lithotripsy
Shock wave lithotripsy uses sound waves to break up kidney stones into smaller pieces, so they can pass through the urinary system without causing any damage.
ESWL is performed by placing special equipment over the skin near the affected area.
A machine generates very loud sounds that travel through the body, breaking up the kidney stone into many tiny fragments.
These fragments then move out of the body on their own.
Shock wave lithotripsy is used to treat patients who have kidney stones less than 2 cm (0.8 inches) in size.
It works best for stones that are in the upper part of the kidney or close to the bladder.
Some people also use this procedure to treat stones that are between 1 and 2 cm (0.4–0.8 inches).
However, it isn’t effective for treating stones that are bigger than 2 cm.
In percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL), a thin tube is inserted into the urethra or rectum to reach the kidney.
The surgeon makes several small punctures in the skin around the kidney to insert instruments into the body.
Then he inserts a fiber optic camera through one of these holes to view the inside of the kidney. He removes the stone using special tools.
PCNL is most commonly used to treat kidney stones that are 5 mm (about 0.2 inches) or smaller.
But it may be used to treat larger stones if other treatments don’t work well.
Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy
In extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT), a device sends shockwaves directly into the stone. This breaks up the stone into tiny particles.
Afterward, the patient receives an infusion of saline solution that flushes away the broken-up material from the kidneys.
ESWT is most useful for treating stones that are 10 mm (about 0.4 inches) or smaller. It is sometimes used when other treatments aren’t successful.
Doctors use different types of medications to help prevent and reduce the risk of forming new stones.
Medicines called citrate bind with calcium in the urine to create a substance that helps prevent stones from growing.
Citrates are found in foods such as oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, and milk products.
People who take certain medicines should not consume citrus fruits because they contain high levels of citrate.
Doctors may prescribe medication to lower the amount of calcium in the blood. Calcium binds with oxalate to create a substance called uric acid.
Uric acid increases the chance of forming stones. Drugs called allopurinol and febuxostat decrease the amount of uric acid in the blood.
Allopurinol is taken daily and febuxostat is taken once a day. Both drugs must be taken for at least 6 months before doctors know whether they will work.
Doctors often recommend taking vitamins and minerals to help keep your bones strong and healthy.
They include vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, and selenium. Vitamin C is important too. It helps make collagen, which strengthens bone tissue.
To conclude, kidney stones can cause pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Kidney stones usually start out small but grow over time.
If you have kidney stones, talk to your doctor about treatment options. You may need surgery to remove the stones.
Or you may try some non-surgical treatments described above.
You should make the necessary dietary adjustments to avoid developing kidney stones and ensure that you are following a healthy lifestyle to avoid activating any genetic predisposition you may have to developing kidney stones.