Kidney stone or urine crystals in humans do get formed under certain conditions. This article provides some information on the same.
Kidneys are charged with the processing of the blood and removing waste material from it. The output of this process is urine which has as many as 2000 chemicals in it. It is mostly composed of water, urea, uric acid, and creatinine. Other constituents include various dissolved ions such as sulfate (SO42-), potassium (K+), sodium (Na+), chloride (Cl-), calcium (Ca2+), magnesium (Mg2+), ammonium (NH4+), and phosphate (e.g., PO43-).
It also contains fatty acids, hormones, enzymes, carbohydrates, pigments, mucins, body cells, and microorganisms. It is a concentrated solution and sometimes uric acid or minerals in it such as urates, calcium oxalate, or phosphate precipitates and microscopic crystals are formed in the organs of the urinary tract such as kidneys or bladder. These crystals can become the cause of formation of different types of kidney stones. Having kidney stone is one of the most painful kidney diseases.
What Causes Crystals in Urine?
There are certain chemicals in the urine that prevent formation of crystals. However, the following conditions are considered as the causes:
- Dehydration leading to concentrated urine
- Changes in its pH
- Inability of the chemicals to neutralize the process of crystal formation
- Urinary tract infections
- Kidney infections
- Metabolic disorders
In addition to the above causes, diet of an individual can also result in kidney stones. Too much amount of oxalate and purine (chemical substances) in diet can trigger the development of calcium oxalate and uric acid crystals respectively. Oxalate is manufactured by the human body and is also consumed through food such as rhubarb, peanuts, beets, chocolate, beer, berries, concord grapes, okra, soybean crackers, wheat germ, spiced Indian tea, instant coffee, spinach, Swiss chard, and sweet potatoes. Purine is found in organ meat as well as in anchovies, sardines, gravy, bacon, beef, and sweetbreads. Excess amount of sodium found in the salty food can cause large amount of calcium which leads to the formation of calcium oxalate crystals in the urine.
Depending on their size, the crystals may pass through the body unnoticed or be a cause of sudden and sharp pain. When microscopic crystals get deposited in a place and aren’t washed out of the body, the chances of their coming together and growing in size are high. If they remain in the same place, the individual may not even become aware of their presence in the body. However, when the action of urine flowing down the urinary tract shifts them, they start moving with it.
Most of the time the crystals cause bouts of pain while they are moving along the urinary tract to the bladder. Because of their increased size, they act as the obstacle to the flow. The pain is sometimes accompanied by cramps in the lower abdomen and in the other body parts surrounding the kidneys. The pain radiates through the groin and sometimes, as the crystals tear body tissues in their path, there is blood in the urine. The affected individual may feel constipated and bloated and even if he/she urinates, it will not relieve the feeling.
Urine Crystals in Infants
Crystals are not only seen in adults, but they are also observed in children and infants.
- In exclusively breastfed newborns, during the first 2 days, they are considered as normal. The color of these crystals is red or pink and cause is less than required quantity of colostrum (foremilk secreted for the first two days after birth of the baby) they are receiving from the mother which may not be enough to produce liquid urine.
- After five days of the birth of the infant, when the milk starts coming, if crystals are still being found in the baby’s diaper, then it is a cause of worry and a pediatrician or an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) must be consulted without fail.
- In case of formula-fed babies, presence of crystals in diapers is a cause of worry as it indicates dehydration. Care must be taken while preparing the formula and if the problem persists, a pediatrician must be consulted.
When one finds himself affected by the aforementioned symptoms, visiting a health practitioner is a wise decision. He/she may advise to do some tests such as an X-ray or ultrasonography to locate the position of the crystal and determine its size. This information may help him in advising the affected person about the future course of treatment for kidney stone removal. He/she may also suggest foods to avoid with this medical condition, in order to control the amount of oxalate, purine, or to exclude salty food.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.