Kidney Stones

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Overview

Hard, solid, deposits of crystallized minerals and salt that may obstruct that pathways of kidneys are called kidney stones (nephrolithiasis). These stones can be present anywhere in the urinary tract from the kidneys to the bladder. Although incredibly painful to pass out in the urine, in most cases they do not leave any residual pathology. In some cases, however, they may lead to infections and may require surgical intervention.

Causes

Kidney stones are often made when calcium, oxalate, or uric acid in the urine crystallize due to inadequate dilution by the fluid present. These may form depending upon the diet, any present urinary infection or the following risk factors:

  • Family or personal history
  • Dehydration
  • High sodium or high protein diet
  • Obesity
  • Gastric bypass surgery
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Other medical conditions (hyperparathyroidism, renal tubular acidosis, cystinuria)

Symptoms

Kidney stones usually start producing symptoms when they move within the urinary tract, particularly the ureters. Following are some symptoms of kidney stones:

  • Severe pain in the back and flanks
  • Pain that radiates down to the groin or abdomen, and comes in waves
  • Red, brown or pink urine
  • Blood in urine
  • Painful urination
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fever and chills (if the infection is present)

Diagnosis

After the history and clinical exams, blood tests, imaging studies such as X-Rays, Ultrasounds, and CT scans, and urinalysis may conclude the diagnosis.

Treatment

For small stones, pain relievers and increased fluid intake is a sufficient intervention. For large, immobile stones that may cause infection or bleeding, Lithotripsy (ultrasound waves used to break and dislodge stones) and surgical intervention may be required.

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