What is a Kidney Stone?
Kidney stones are solid stones or pebbles that form in the kidneys from dissolve urinary minerals. Kidney stones are usually passed through and out of the body through the urine stream. Very small stones will pass without notice, but larger stones of two to three millimeters can cause blockages and other problems. The stones block the ureter and causes stretching of the upper ureter and renal pelvis. Muscles will spasm in an attempt to remove the stone, which causes pain in the abdomen and groin area. Kidney stones can also damage the lining of the urinary tract.
Ultrasounds, urine tests and blood tests are used to diagnose kidney stones. The stones can be pulverized by sound waves or treated via surgical means, which will be discussed below.
Causes and Symptoms
Groin pain is the most noticeable symptom of kidney stones. This pain can be extremely severe and can occur throughout the abdomen and back. Damage to the kidney and urinary tract can cause blood to appear in the urine stream. The amount of urine can also be reduced due to blockages caused by kidney stones. Vomiting and nausea are also symptoms, usually deriding from the aforementioned symptoms.
Some causes of kidney stones can include consuming water that contains fluoride, although fluoride is also known to help prevent the formation of stones. 80 percent of kidney stones are composed of calcium oxalate crystals. Studies show that consuming low amounts of calcium can lead to a higher risk of developing stones. This has to do with calcium binding to oxalate. As calcium decreases, oxalate increases and can lead to the development of kidney stones.
Surgery and Other Treatments
Nearly all kidney stones measuring less than four millimeters will pass through the urine stream on their own. Stones larger than six millimeters will require additional help in about nine percent of cases. Drinking large amounts of water will help increase the odds of passing a stone while some medications can be used to treat infection, pain and increase urine flow. If a stone does not pass within four weeks, surgery may be performed. Surgery to treat kidney stones is a rarity. Surgery is usually performed when a kidney stone is causing severe internal bleeding that cannot be stopped. The surgeon will make an incision in the stomach in order to remove the stone from the kidney.
Percutaneous nephrolithotomy is a kind of surgery where a narrow telescope is put into the kidney. The stone is then removed or broken up. This procedure is usually done when a stone is larger than normal. Kidney stones can also be formed when the parathyroid glands over-produce one hormone causing high calcium levels. Surgery may be used to remove the glands to keep these types of stones from reforming.
Lithotripsy is a common form or surgical treatment for kidney stones. An instrument is used to break up stones so that they may pass through naturally. Sound waves or shock waves or some sort are used in the various kinds of lithotripsy. Types of lithotripsy include ultrasonic lithotripsy, electrohydraulic lithotripsy and extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy.
Ureteroscopic stone removal uses general anesthesia. The procedure uses a laser to break up large stones while smaller stones are removed. A tube is often left in the ureter for a few days to aid in healing.
Open surgery is very rarely used to treat kidney stones of any kind. This surgery uses general anesthesia. An incision is made in the back and the kidney or ureter and the stone is then taken out. The time it takes to recover from this kind of surgery can be a few weeks with a portion of that time being spent in a hospital.
It is important to have any symptoms related to kidney stones diagnosed by a trained medical physician. A doctor can determine the best method of treatment for passing or removing kidney stones.