If you have ever experienced passing a kidney stone, it's not likely that you will ever forget it, as it can be agonizingly painful. Kidney stones, also known as renal calculi or renal stones, have afflicted humans since ancient times. They can be traced back to the era of the Egyptian pyramids, and yet, they are still as common today. However, it has been observed that incidences have been on the rise in recent decades. Although it is not clear what exactly the reasons for this are, most experts agree that lack of fluids and dietary choices are important contributory factors for the increase.
The kidneys are bean-shaped organs, which are located on either side of the spine in the rear side of the abdomen. Their chief function is removing waste from the blood, inessential electrolytes, and surplus fluid in the form of urine. The urine is carried from the kidneys to the bladder via the ureters. The urine is stored in the bladder until it is eliminated from the body.
Usually, stones form when the urine becomes concentrated to a great extent. This results in minerals, along with other substances, to form into crystals, which occur in the inner surface of the kidneys. In time, these crystals have the tendency to combine, forming a hard, small mass, or a kidney stone.
The crystals have a propensity of forming when the urine has high concentrations of particular substances such as uric acid, oxalate, calcium, and sometimes, cystine. Kidney stones can also form if the body has low levels of magnesium and citrate, which help in preventing crystal formation. Crystals can also form if the urine is too alkaline, too acidic, or if it becomes too concentrated.
Signs and Symptoms
Most people with kidney stones do not experience any symptoms until one gets lodged in the urinary tract or the kidney's calyces, which then triggers off the agonizing renal colic mentioned above. Many types of stones, especially phosphate stones are 'silent' or asymptomatic, unless an obstruction occurs or there is an infection.
- Fluctuating, excruciating pain
- Blockage in the flow of urine
- Pain along the sides, just under the ribs, or back pain.
- Dull ache in the area of the kidneys or loins (pain aggravates during movement and subsides during rest)
- Excessive sweating along with pallor occurring with pain
- Nausea as well as vomiting
- Chills along with fever
- Cloudy or blood tinged urine
- Foul-smelling urine
- A constant need to urinate
- Recurring urinary infection
Rather than suffering from the debilitating effects of kidney stones, and then undergoing expensive treatment, it is best to prevent them from occurring in the first place. One of the best ways of doing that is to drink plenty of water. For instance, if you have already had a history of stones, it is recommended that you drink up to 10-12 glasses of water per day. Water helps in flushing away the substances that form into renal stones.
Depending on an individual's medical history and the cause of the kidney stones, medications and dietary changes may also be recommended to lessen the chances of renal stones occurring again. If a stone is passed, it is particularly helpful to get an analysis done on it in a laboratory, in order to ascertain the precise type of kidney stone so that specific preventive measures can be devised. If the stone lodges in the ureter, it can lead to severe pain. This pain can rise steadily, peaking in a few minutes, and radiating to the testis or labium, and the flanks.