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What Causes Kidney Stones

What Causes Kidney Stones
Knowing the reasons for the formation of kidney stones allows you to take appropriate preventive measures and avoid them in time. The factors for the occurrence of kidney stones range from a sedentary lifestyle, hereditary factors, and diseases.
Parul Solanki
Last Updated: May 31, 2018
Our kidneys act as blood filters that help in removing waste products from the body. The organs also control the electrolyte levels for effective functioning of the body. The waste matter in the form of urine drains from the kidney into the bladder through the ureter. However, in certain cases, the chemicals present in the urine crystallize to form a kidney stone or renal calculi. These hard crystalline stones are formed in the kidney or the urinary tract, and can range from being very tiny when they form and gradually growing over time. While urolithiasis is the condition where the kidney stones are present in the urinary tract, nephrolithiasis refers to stones in the kidney.
Whether the kidney stones are a present in the kidney or the urinary tract, they cause severe pain in the abdomen or groin. These stones are also the most common reason for the presence of blood in urine. It is believed that 1 in every 20 people develops a kidney stone at some point of time in their life.
Causes of Kidney Stone
Decrease in Volume of Urine: A decrease in the volume of urine along with the presence of an excess of stone-forming substances in the urine can lead to formation of kidney stones. The chemicals most commonly present in kidney stones include: calcium, either oxalate or phosphate, chemical compounds such as uric acid, and amino acid cystine.
Dehydration: Dehydration caused as a result of less fluid intake increases the risk of kidney stones. Strenuous exercise with profuse sweating, which is followed by inadequate fluid replacement, can also cause kidney stones.
Certain Medical Conditions: A number of medical conditions can lead to an increased risk for developing kidney stones:
  • Gout results in an increased amount of uric acid in the urine and can lead to the formation of uric acid stones
  • Hypercalciuria or the high calcium in the urine is a hereditary disease that causes stones. When excess of calcium is absorbed from food and excreted into the urine, calcium phosphate or calcium oxalate stones are formed
  • Kidney diseases such as renal tubular acidosis or inherited metabolic conditions like cystinuria can also result in kidney stones
  • People suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension are increasingly at risk of developing this condition
  • Inflammatory bowel disease or people who have had an intestinal bypass are also more likely to develop kidney stones
Medication: Certain medication like Topiramate, a drug commonly prescribed to treat migraine headaches and seizures, can increase the risk of developing kidney stones. Medications such as diuretics, calcium-containing antacids, or certain medication used to treat an HIV related infection, can also lead to the formation of kidney stones.
Other causes include:
  • Diets high in protein and sodium but low in calcium
  • An inactive lifestyle
  • Obesity and weight gain
  • Kidney stones are more common among men as compared to women
  • People between the age of 30 and 50 are more prone to getting it
  • A family history of kidney stones or hereditary risk of kidney stones
  • Previous occurrences of kidney stones in the past
  • It is believed that caucasians are more often affected than any other race
When the kidney stones travel from the kidneys to the bladder, they cause severe pain in the groin or result in vomiting and nausea. This is accompanied by the presence of blood or pus in the urine or a burning sensation while urinating. If the stones result in any form of urinary tract infection, a person could suffer from fever and chills.
Diagnosis and Treatment
For diagnosing the presence of kidney stones, the doctor may conduct imaging tests, such as X-rays to examine your kidneys and urinary tract. To find out the cause of your kidney stones, your doctor may ask you to collect your urine over a period of 24 hours or perform a blood test.
To treat kidney stones, the doctor will suggest certain pain relievers and recommend consumption of enough water and other fluids to prevent dehydration. However, in case the stone is too large to pass on its own, or if it gets stuck in the urinary tract, you may need a specific kidney stone treatment known as extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL). This method uses shock waves to break a kidney stone into small pieces so that they can pass out of your body through your urine.
To help prevent this painful ordeal, it is important that people prone to getting kidney stones drink enough water to keep your urine clear, about 8 to 10 glasses of water a day. Staying hydrated and consuming an appropriate and recommended kidney stones diet keeps the minerals from concentrating and forming stones. In addition, the doctor may prescribe medicines to prevent certain types of stones for individuals who are at a higher risk.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.