Kidney stones affect 1 in 11 people in the US. Kidney stones can (literally) be a real pain. But what are they? What causes them? And how can they be prevented? Read on to find out.
What are kidney stones?
The kidneys are part of your urinary tract system. Their job is to control the fluid and chemical levels in the body by cleaning the blood, then creating urine from the waste and the excess fluid in the body. Sometimes, the urine in your body contains a high level of minerals and salts that form hard deposits inside of your kidneys. These are kidney stones. Kidney stones may start out small, but can grow quite large in some cases.
Kidney stones sometimes don’t have any symptoms, and remain inside the kidneys without issue. Or, they may travel through the urinary tract to the bladder, where they exit the body through urine. Passing a kidney stone can sometimes take several weeks and may be quite painful. If the stone is too large, it may become lodged in the urinary tract, creating even more problems.
Types of Kidney Stones.
There are four types of kidney stones. These include:
Calcium stones. These are the most common type of kidney stones. Certain diets or metabolic conditions or medications may contribute to an increase in calcium in urine.
Struvite stones. These types of stones form in response to an infection, like a bladder infection. Although rare, these stones can be more common in people prone to getting urinary tract infections.
Uric acid stones. These happen to people who drink too little fluids or who eat a high protein diet. Certain conditions can also lead to uric acid stones, such as type 2 diabetes, or gout.
Cystine stones. A hereditary condition causing the kidneys to produce too much of certain amino acids.
Do Kidney Stones Cause Incontinence?
Kidneys stones can sometimes interfere with urination, since they travel down the tubes leading from the kidneys to the bladder. This can create blockages, which may make it difficult to pass urine. Kidney stones may also make you feel like you need to urinate more often. You may feel an urgent need to use the bathroom. Sometimes this can lead to leaks if you are unable to make it to a bathroom in time.
What Are The Symptoms Of Kidney Stones?
They symptoms of a kidney stone may vary depending on the location and size of the stone. Some stones are so small they may not cause any discomfort at all. (Although even small stones can cause a lot of pain.) Or, the symptoms may change as the stone shifts and moves from the kidney to the bladder. Typically symptoms of kidney stones may include:
Pain in the back or sides, the groin, or the lower abdomen.
Pain when urinating
Red, pink or brown tinted urine. This happens when blood enters the urine.
Cloudy or bad smelling urine
Needing to urinate often, or feeling an intense need to empty your bladder.
Feeling a burning sensation when urinating
Nausea and vomiting
Passing small amounts of urine
Are Kidney Stones Painful?
Kidney stones can range from being uncomfortable, to extremely painful, and the amount of pain, and location of that pain can change as the stone moves through your urinary tract.
Why are kidney stones so painful? It makes sense when you think about it. The stone is trying to pass through the tube from the kidney to the bladder, which is extremely small. As the stone enters the tube, it may block urine, causing it to build up and create pressure and pain. In addition, the ureter (the tube that connects the kidneys to the bladder) contracts as the stone moves through it, pushing it closer to the bladder to get rid of it, which also causes pain.
You may feel this pain in the back or sides, where the kidneys are located or, as the stone moves closer to the bladder, you may feel it in your abdomen or groin, and urination may feel painful, much like when you have a urinary tract infection.
What Causes Kidney Stones?
There is no one cause of kidney stones, but certain diets or conditions may make you more prone to developing them. Having a family history of kidney stones, not drinking enough fluid, being overweight, and certain diets can all make you more susceptible to getting kidney stones. Additionally, if you have conditions such as diabetes, gout, or gastrointestinal diseases (diarrhea, constipation, IBS), you may be at a greater risk for developing kidney stones.
How Do You Treat Kidney Stones?
Waiting for the kidney stone to pass is the most common form of treatment. This can take from a few days to a few weeks. Luckily, over-the-counter pain medications can help relieve most of the discomfort you may feel.
However, if you’re in unbearable pain, or the stone becomes lodged for too long, surgery to remove the stone may be required.
How Do You Prevent Kidney Stones?
Some people are more prone to develop kidney stones, based on heredity or their own history of stones. People who have had kidney stones in the past are more likely to develop another in the future.
However, there are some things that you can do to help prevent those hard mineral deposits from forming in the first place.
Stay Hydrated. Ensure you’re drinking enough water to stay hydrated. By maintain a good amount of fluid in the body, the kidney is better able to filter calcium, making it less likely that a build up will occur.
Watch Your Diet. If you suffer from frequent kidney stones, avoid high protein diets, and reduce your sugar, and especially your salt consumption. Watch your calcium intake too to ensure you’re not overdoing it (pay attention to vitamins and supplements, especially if you’re already eating calcium rich foods).
Reduce Your Weight. Losing weight can reduce your risk for kidney stones. This is in part because reducing your weight may lead to a healthier diet, with less salty food or animal fats. Incorporate lots of fruits and vegetables into your diet and practice regular exercise to reduce the weight.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, make an appointment with your doctor to get it checked out.