Complications Of Kidney Stones
Kidney stones can range in size from a grain of sand to that of a pearl or even larger. They can be smooth or jagged, and are usually yellow or brown. A large stone may get stuck in the urinary system. This can block the flow of urine and may cause strong pain.
Kidney stones can cause permanent kidney damage. Stones also increase the risk of urinary and kidney infection, which can result in germs spreading into the bloodstream.
Rethink Some Healthy Foods
Your doctor may recommend more dietary changes for you based on stone type and the results of a 24-hour urine test to determine your urine composition basically, what your urine is made of.
If you have high oxalate content in your urine, for instance, your doctor may advise staying away from oxalate-rich foods like rhubarb and spinach. Or they may recommend eating those foods with dairy, as the calcium from milk products binds to oxalates and forces them into your feces rather than urine.
Oxalate is in a lot of really healthy foods like greens, vegetables, beans and nuts, says Dr. De. So we would only restrict them after examining a patients stone type and urine test results.
Types Of Kidney Stones
Knowing the types of kidney stones helps to determine the cause. Beyond that, knowing the type would also give helpful insight into the best ways to reduce your risk of getting more kidney stones.
So, what are these types of kidney stones?
- Calcium stones: Most kidney stones are calcium stones, which come in the form of calcium oxalate. Oxalate is a substance produced daily by your liver or absorbed from your diet. Factors such as high doses of vitamin D, some metabolic disorders, and undergoing intestinal bypass surgery can increase the concentration of oxalate or calcium in your urine. Some metabolic conditions such as renal tubular acidosis can also cause calcium stones in the form of calcium phosphate.
- Uric acid stones: Uric acid stones are also types of kidney stones that can form if you have too much uric acid in your body. It tends to form when you lose too much fluid due to chronic diarrhea or malabsorption.
- Struvite stones: Upper urinary tract infection from bacteria is the primary cause of struvite stones. These stones can grow quickly, become quite large, and sometimes have non-noticeable symptoms.
- Cystine stones: Cystine stones refer to kidney stones made of a chemical known as cystine. Cystine is a product of a condition called cystinuria. Cystine stones tend to be larger sometimes, doctors need to remove them surgically to prevent kidney or urinary tract damage. Its a rare inherited condition.
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Risk Factors Of Kidney Stones
Now that weve discussed the types of kidney stones, certain risk factors increase your chances of getting them. Below are some of the risk factors:
- Dehydration: Dehydration is one of the most common causes and risk factors for kidney stones. Its also the easiest to remedy. Not drinking enough water reduces the fluid content in your urine, and kidney stones form when your urine contains more crystal-forming substances than the fluid in your urine can dilute.
- Family History: If theres someone in your family who has had kidney stones, you have a higher risk of developing kidney stones than someone without a family history of kidney stones.
- Obesity: Factors such as high body mass index, large waist size, and weight gain increase your risk of kidney stones, either as a single episode or recurrent episodes.
- Diet: Some studies have confirmed that eating a diet high in sodium increases your risk of certain types of kidney stones. Sodium increases the amount of calcium your kidney has to filter. Also, diets high in protein and sugar can increase your risk of kidney stones.
- Digestive diseases and surgery: Digestive system disorders such as ulcerative colitis and Crohns disease can affect your bodys calcium, electrolyte, and water absorption. That may increase your risk of forming kidney stones. In addition, some surgical procedures, including weight loss surgery or other stomach or intestine surgeries, can increase your risk of kidney stones.
Why You Get Stones
Part of preventing stones is finding out why you get them. Your health care provider will perform tests to find out what is causing this. After finding out why you get stones, your health care provider will give you tips to help stop them from coming back.
Some of the tests he or she may do are listed below.
Medical and Dietary History
Your health care provider will ask questions about your personal and family medical history. He or she may ask if:
- Have you had more than one stone before?
- Has anyone in your family had stones?
- Do you have a medical condition that may increase your chance of having stones, like frequent diarrhea, gout or diabetes?
Knowing your eating habits is also helpful. You may be eating foods that are known to raise the risk of stones. You may also be eating too few foods that protect against stones or not drinking enough fluids.
Understanding your medical, family and dietary history helps your health care provider find out how likely you are to form more stones.
Blood and Urine Tests
When a health care provider sees you for the first time and you have had stones before, he or she may want to see recent X-rays or order a new X-ray. They will do this to see if there are any stones in your urinary tract. Imaging tests may be repeated over time to check for stone growth. You may also need this test if you are having pain, hematuria or recurrent infections.
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Cut Back On Animal Protein
If someone has uric acid stones or calcium stones and relatively high uric acid in the urine, they may want to limit the intake of nondairy animal protein, Palevsky says. Thats because animal proteins have high levels of compounds called purines, which can cause you to excrete more uric acid and be more prone to uric acid stones. Porter recommends limiting your protein intake to 6 ounces a day. And lean meats are better than fatty meats, he adds. When we eat fatty foods, we have a response in the intestine that makes us absorb more oxalate.
Kidney Stone Diet: Foods To Eat And Avoid
Kidney stones in the urinary tract are formed in several ways. Calcium can combine with chemicals, such as oxalate or phosphorous, in the urine. This can happen if these substances become so concentrated that they solidify. Kidney stones can also be caused by a buildup of uric acid. Uric acid buildup is caused by the metabolism of protein. Your urinary tract wasnt designed to expel solid matter, so its no surprise that kidney stones are very painful to pass. Luckily, they can usually be avoided through diet.
If youre trying to avoid kidney stones, what you eat and drink is as important as what you shouldnt eat and drink. Here are some important rules of thumb to keep in mind.
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Treatment And When To See A Doctor
If a person suspects that a kidney stone is the cause of substantial pain or discomfort, it is important to see a doctor.
Although most people experience no long-term consequences from kidney stones, they can be extremely painful and require medical monitoring.
In most cases, treating kidney stones involves increasing fluid intake, taking pain medications, and using medications that make the urine less acidic.
People with smaller stones may be able to go home and wait for the stone or stones to pass. People with larger or more severe stones may need to stay in the hospital.
Stones that are too large to pass or that become stuck in the urinary tract may require surgery. Surgery to remove the stones may also be necessary if an infection has developed around it.
Talk To Your Doctor About Preventative Medications
If youre prone to certain types of kidney stones, certain medications can help control the amount of that material present in your urine. The type of medication prescribed will depend on the type of stones you usually get.
- If you get calcium stones, a thiazide diuretic or phosphate may be beneficial.
- If you get uric acid stones, allopurinol can help reduce uric acid in your blood or urine.
- If you get struvite stones, long-term antibiotics may be used to help reduce the amount of bacteria present in your urine
- If you get cystine stones, capoten may help reduce the level of cystine in your urine
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One Seriously Strange Way To Pass A Kidney Stone
Scientific research, folks in white lab coats, gleaming laboratories, occasional Eureka moments interspersed with hours of work still sounds interesting if not glamorous. But sometimes, science requires more dedication, more sacrifice. Two physicians made the effort studying the effect of Thunder Mountain, a Disney World roller coaster, on kidney stones small crystals that form in your kidneys.
The authors built a 3-D model of a kidney and ureter, the anatomic tube that connects the kidney to the bladder. The model faithfully recreated the kidneys collection system, the pathway a kidney stone takes as it follows urine out of the body. They wanted to know whether these crystals or stones would move because of outside forces, like those you might experience on a roller coaster. Three different size kidney stones were placed in three different locations within the kidney then, securing the model in a backpack the authors rode Thunder Mountain twenty times. Thunder Mountain is a roller coaster ride of two and half minutes at about 35 miles per hour with all the curves and dips you would associate with such a ride.
Long-term treatment includes increasing fluid intake to more than a liter daily and avoiding calcium supplement. Interestingly enough, dietary calcium, the calcium contained in our food has not been shown to increase risk it actually lowers risk. So much for supplements.
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Prevention Of Future Stones
Once your health care provider finds out why you are forming stones, he or she will give you tips on how to prevent them. This may include changing your diet and taking certain medications. There is no “one-size-fits-all” diet for preventing kidney stones. Everyone is different. Your diet may not be causing your stones to form. But there are dietary changes that you can make to stop stones from continuing to form.
Drink enough fluids each day.
If you are not producing enough urine, your health care provider will recommend you drink at least 3 liters of liquid each day. This equals about 3 quarts . This is a great way to lower your risk of forming new stones. Remember to drink more to replace fluids lost when you sweat from exercise or in hot weather. All fluids count toward your fluid intake. But it’s best to drink mostly no-calorie or low-calorie drinks. This may mean limiting sugar-sweetened or alcoholic drinks.
Knowing how much you drink during the day can help you understand how much you need to drink to produce 2.5 liters of urine. Use a household measuring cup to measure how much liquid you drink for a day or two. Drink from bottles or cans with the fluid ounces listed on the label. Keep a log, and add up the ounces at the end of the day or 24-hour period. Use this total to be sure you are reaching your daily target urine amount of at least 85 ounces of urine daily.
Reduce the amount of salt in your diet.
Eat the recommended amount of calcium.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Kidney Stones
If you have a small kidney stone, it may travel out of your body through your urine . You may not have any symptoms and may never know that you had a kidney stone.
If you have a larger kidney stone, it may get stuck in your urinary tract and block urine from getting through. You may notice symptoms, including:
- Pain while urinating
- Sharp pain in your back or lower belly area
- Stomachache that does not go away
- Feeling sick to your stomach or throwing up
- A fever and chills
- Urine that smells bad or looks cloudy
You may feel a lot of pain when you pass a kidney stone or if a large kidney stone blocks the flow of your urine.
If you are having any of these symptoms, contact your doctor.
Pay Attention To Your Sodium Intake
Another aspect of kidney stone development is a high-sodium diet, according to Dr. Soni. Making sure that you’re not exceeding the daily value is an important step in preventing kidney stonesâaccording to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we should aim to consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.
At the end of the day, according to these experts, plenty of causes of kidney stones can be outside of your control and more about your environment and family history. If you’ve had kidney stones, it doesn’t mean you failed at maintaining a healthy diet or hydration. When it comes to trying to prevent kidney stones, staying informed, hydrated, and in touch with a provider is the best you can do.
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How Are Children Treated For Kidney Stones
Most childrens kidney stones can be treated with the shock wave lithotripsy , a completely non-invasive procedure. Your child is placed under anesthesia and sound waves of specific frequencies are focused on the stones to shatter them into fragments small enough to be easily passed during urination.
What A Doctor Can Do For You
For individuals with at least one previous episode of kidney stones, Dr. Hoenig recommends an evaluation to determine what factors may have contributed to the stones. Based on the tests, your doctor can provide specific dietary advice and, in some cases, medications and dietary supplements. Ask your doctor to refer you to a specialized “stone clinic” if you feel you need more help preventing kidney stones.
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It’s Not One And Done
Passing a kidney stone is often described as one of the most painful experiences a person can have, but unfortunately, it’s not always a one-time event. Studies have shown that having even one stone greatly increases your chances of having another. “Most people will want to do anything they can to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” said Dr. Jhagroo. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be the case that people make the changes they need to after their first stone event.”
Research conducted by Dr. Jhagroo shows that those with kidney stones do not always heed the advice of their nephrologists and urinary specialists. About 15% of kidney stone patients didn’t take prescribed medications and 41% did not follow the nutritional advice that would keep stones from recurring. Without the right medications and diet adjustments, stones can come back, and recurring kidney stones also could be an indicator of other problems, including kidney disease.
What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider
- Do I have a kidney stone or is there another reason for my symptoms?
- What type of kidney stone do I have?
- What size is my kidney stone?
- Where is my kidney stone located?
- How many kidney stones do I have?
- Do I need treatment or will I be able to pass the kidney stone?
- Should I be tested for kidney disease?
- What changes should I make to my diet?
- What type of procedure should I have to get rid of the stones?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Kidney stones can be frustrating at best and agonizingly painful at the worst. To stop your situation from getting worse, you should be evaluated by a healthcare provider as soon as possible. The pain can get severe, and surgery might be necessary. Remember: dont skip your prescriptions, drink lots of water and follow any dietary guidelines. Also, remember that kidney stones are a temporary condition. They wont bother you forever.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/03/2021.
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Tips For A Kidney Stone Diet
Having kidney stones increases your risk of getting them again unless you actively work to prevent them. This means taking medications prescribed to you for this purpose, and watching what you eat and drink.
If you currently have stones, your doctor will run diagnostic tests, to determine what type you have. They will then prescribe a specific diet plan for you, such as the DASH Diet. Tips that will help include:
- drink at least twelve glasses of water daily
- eat citrus fruits, such as orange
- eat a calcium-rich food at each meal, at least three times a day
- limit your intake of animal protein
- eat less salt, added sugar, and products containing high fructose corn syrup
- avoid foods and drinks high in oxalates and phosphates
- avoid eating or drinking anything which dehydrates you, such as alcohol.
Where Is Kidney Stone Pain Located
The sharp pain associated with a kidney stone moves as the stone progresses through your urinary tract. The most common places to feel pain are in your:
- Lower abdomen or groin
- Along one side of your body, below your ribs
- Lower back
However, while pain is certainly the most noticeable symptoms of kidney stones, its not always the earliest sign or even the most telling sign, for that matter.
The pain associated with a kidney stone typically isnt felt until after its already formed and is passing through your urinary tract, explains Dr. Kannady. In addition, due to differences in anatomy, men and women describe kidney stone pain slightly differently. Not to mention that pain itself is relative and everyone has a different threshold for it.
Plus, the intensity of the pain isnt necessarily a measure of how problematic the kidney stone might be or become. Smaller stones that are likely to pass on their own can still be very painful. And not every kidney stone that requires medical intervention comes with gut-wrenching pain.
Any time youre experiencing pain, its important to see your doctor. But if youre experiencing pain, even if its only mind, in combination with the kidney stone symptoms above and, in particular, if you have a fever or severe trouble urinating its definitely important to see your doctor, warns Dr. Kannady.
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