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Health & Fitness

Understanding kidney stone disease and symptoms

Kidney stones
Kidney stones are hard deposits made of different minerals and salt that form inside your kidneys. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The kidneys are vital organs whose main functions are to filter waste from the blood, create urine, balance water levels, regulate blood pressure while aiding in other important functions of the body.

Kidney stones are hard deposits made of different minerals and salt that form inside your kidneys. Stones form when the urine becomes concentrated, allowing minerals to crystalise and stick together within the inner lining of the kidneys, the ureter or the bladder.

The stones may be as small as a grain of sand and pass unnoticed through the urinary tract. Others may grow and become large enough to occupy the kidney. The stones cause no permanent damage with timely patient diagnosis.

Other symptoms include frequent, or painful urination, blood in the urine, nausea and vomiting. These signs can also be associated with other abdominal conditions hence kidney stones are rarely diagnosed until they begin causing extreme pain.

The stones could either be calcium stone which is the most common type among men and women whose risk can be reduced by eating fewer foods rich in calcium-oxalate such as potato chips, peanuts, chocolate among others. Uric acid stones are more common in men.

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Struvite (crystals of magnesium ammonium phosphate) stones are commonly found in women with urinary tract infection. The stones are usually large in size causing urinary obstruction.

Treating the infection helps in the reduction of stone formation. The rarest type is the cystine stone which occurs in both males and females.

Risk factors

Some of the risk factors include family history which escalates the chances of one developing the stones, a previous kidney stone occurrence increases the chances that a person will develop subsequent stones if preventative action is not taken.

It is possible that the long-term use of vitamin D and calcium supplements can cause high calcium levels, which can contribute to kidney stones. Diets high in protein and sodium, but low in calcium are another additional risk factor.

The treatment for a kidney stone depends on the size of the stone, the composition, the level of pain, or blockage of the urinary tract. To answer these questions and to figure out the right treatment for you, your doctor might ask you to have a urine test, blood test, x-ray, or CT scan for accurate diagnosis.

If your test results show that your kidney stone is small, pain medication and muscle relaxants will be administered while drinking plenty of fluids to help push the stone through your urinary tract. If your kidney stone is large, or blocking your urinary tract shock wave treatment will be administered to break the stones into smaller pieces which will pass out with urine.

In rare cases, surgery is needed to remove a kidney stone when causing an obstruction and infection, or is damaging the kidneys.

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