Kidney stones

What are kidney stones?

    Kidney stones, medically known as renal calculi, nephrolithiasis, or urolithiasis, are solid deposits of minerals and salts that develop within the kidneys.

    Various factors contribute to the formation of kidney stones, including diet, excess body weight, certain medical conditions, and specific supplements or medications.

    These stones can affect any part of the urinary tract, from the kidneys to the bladder. Stones form when urine becomes highly concentrated, facilitating the crystallization and aggregation of minerals.

    While passing kidney stones can be extremely painful, they usually do not cause permanent damage if detected promptly. Treatment options vary depending on the situation. In some cases, pain medication and increased fluid intake may be sufficient to facilitate the passage of a kidney stone. However, surgical intervention may be necessary if the stones become lodged in the urinary tract, leading to a urinary infection or posing complications.

    For individuals at increased risk of recurrent kidney stones, preventive measures may be recommended by a healthcare provider to minimize the likelihood of future occurrences. These measures may include dietary modifications, lifestyle changes, and medications to reduce the risk of stone formation.

Causes of kidney stones

    Potential factors contributing to the development of kidney stones include inadequate fluid intake, insufficient or excessive physical activity, obesity, weight loss surgery, and consumption of foods high in salt or sugar. Infections and a family history of kidney stones may also play a significant role in certain individuals. Moreover, excessive fructose consumption has been linked to an increased risk of kidney stone formation.

Types of kidney stones

    There are four primary types of kidney stones:

    1. Calcium stones: This is the most prevalent type of kidney stone, formed when calcium combines with oxalate in the urine. Inadequate intake of calcium and fluids, along with other underlying conditions, may contribute to their development.

    2. Uric acid stones: Another common type of kidney stone, uric acid stones, form due to high concentrations of purines in certain foods like organ meats and shellfish. Increased purine intake can lead to elevated production of monosodium urate, which, under favourable conditions, may crystallize and form stones in the kidneys. The propensity for these stones to develop often runs in families.

    3. Struvite stones: Struvite stones develop in response to urinary tract infections. These stones can multiply and attain considerable size, sometimes with minimal symptoms or warning signs.

    4. Cystine stones: These stones occur in individuals with a hereditary disorder called cystinuria, which causes excessive excretion of a specific amino acid by the kidneys.

Risk factors

    Factors that elevate the risk of developing kidney stones include:

    1. Family or personal history: If kidney stones run in your family or you've previously experienced them, your likelihood of developing them increases.

    2. Dehydration: Insufficient daily water intake increases the risk of kidney stone formation. Individuals residing in warm, arid climates and those prone to heavy perspiration may face a higher risk.

    3. Dietary habits: A diet rich in protein, sodium (salt), and sugar can heighten the risk of specific kidney stones. This is particularly significant with a diet high in sodium, as excessive salt intake prompts increased calcium filtration by the kidneys, substantially raising the likelihood of kidney stone formation.

    4. Obesity: Elevated body mass index (BMI), a larger waist size, and weight gain have been associated with a heightened risk of kidney stones.

    5. Digestive disorders and surgical procedures: Gastric bypass surgery, inflammatory bowel disease, or chronic diarrhea can induce changes in the digestive process that impact calcium and water absorption, leading to increased levels of stone-forming substances in the urine.

    6. Other medical conditions: Conditions such as renal tubular acidosis, cystinuria, hyperparathyroidism, and recurrent urinary tract infections can also amplify the risk of kidney stone development.

    7. Certain supplements and medications: Vitamin C supplements, dietary supplements, excessive use of laxatives, calcium-based antacids, and specific medicines employed to treat migraines or depression can heighten the risk of kidney stones.


    Symptoms of a kidney stone typically do not manifest until it starts moving within the kidney or travels into one of the ureters, the narrow tubes linking the kidneys to the bladder.

    Once a kidney stone becomes lodged in a ureter, it can obstruct urine flow, leading to kidney swelling and ureter spasms, resulting in intense pain. At this stage, you may experience the following symptoms:

    1. Intense, sharp pain in the side and back, below the ribs

    2. Pain that extends to the lower abdomen and groin

    3. Waves of pain that vary in intensity

    4. Pain or burning sensation during urination

    Additional signs and symptoms may include:

    1. Urine that is pink, red, or brown

    2. Cloudy or foul-smelling urine

    3. Persistent urge to urinate, frequent urination, or passing urine in small amounts

    4. Nausea and vomiting

    5. Fever and chills if an infection is present

    The pain caused by a kidney stone may shift to different locations or increase in intensity as the stone moves along the urinary tract.

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