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What Are Kidney Stones?

RM Kidney

Urine forms from waste material made during normal metabolic processes. Fluid intake and excretion is an ongoing process. You drink water, and it first travels to your stomach. As it moves on to your intestines, it is absorbed and used by your body for many needs. Waste materials in your blood flow as a liquid to your kidneys where millions of tiny filtering systems called nephrons work like sieves to filter out the wastes and excess fluids, turning it into urine. Some of the waste is microscopic crystals and can begin to stick together again, forming larger structures that make up kidney stones. Most kidney stones are small, but a man in Hungary was said to have had a kidney stone that was almost two and a half pounds surgically removed.

Different Kinds of Kidney Stones

Most kidney stones made of calcium. Studies have show that calcium oxalate kidney stones are not likely caused by dietary intake of calcium. Struvite stones account for a smaller percentage of kidney stones. They likely form when bacterial infections change the pH of your urine to a less acidic state. Struvite stones are made of magnesium ammonium phosphate. Elevated levels of uric acid can lead to gout, which is an inflammatory arthritis where uric acid crystals form and get deposited in your joints and soft tissues. Uric acid crystals can also form into kidney stones. Cystine is an amino acid. If your body does not correctly process cystine, it can form into kidney stones as well.

Symptoms of Kidney Stones

Small kidney stones may pass without feeling any discomfort. Larger stones can cause severe pain as your body attempts to pass them. As a stone works its way out of your kidney into the ureter where urine flows to the bladder, pain can increase. Then, there is the passage of the stone from the bladder through the urethra. You have two kidneys and two ureters. Pain will be felt on the side where the stone is at. If you have a kidney stone, you are likely to feel the pain in your lower abdomen, at your side and around to your back. As the stone moves, the spot where pain is concentrated may move. Women may feel pain in the vulvar region, and men may feel pain in the area of their testicles.

Small kidney stones can often pass without incident, other than the pain they cause. However, it is important to have the stones analyzed to determine what they are made of. This helps your doctor pinpoint a cause to help prevent forming new kidney stones. Larger kidney stones may need surgical intervention to remove them. Lithotripsy is a procedure where ultrasonic sound waves are directed on the kidney stone to break it up into smaller pieces to allow it to pass. Surgery is sometimes required to get the device close to the stone, but it is much preferred over open surgery to extract kidney stones.