Kidney Stone Facts

If your doctor says you have renal lithiasis, you have kidney stones. Formed from mineral and acid salts, these "stones" are really deposits found in your kidneys. They are not life threatening; however, they can cause pain and discomfort.

Types of kidney stones

Kidney stones are not caused by just one condition. Different causes result in different types of kidney stones. For example, some medications may cause kidney stones to form. The US Library of Medicine lists several types of kidney stones and their causes, including:

1. Calcium oxalate stones. The Library of Medicine states calcium stones are the most common of all kidney stones. This type of stone can form if you suffer from an inflamed bowel or have had an intestinal bypass surgery, states the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC). Hypercalciuria, an inherited condition, also causes calcium stones.

2. Cystine stones. Another hereditary condition, cystinuria causes cystine stones in both men and women. According to NKUDIC, cystine stones form when "too much of the amino acid cystine, which does not dissolve in urine, is voided, leading to the formation of stones made of cystine. In patients with hyperoxaluria, the body produces too much oxalate, a salt. When the urine contains more oxalate than can be dissolved, the crystals settle out and form stones."

3. Struvite stones. According to NKUDIC, urinary tract infections are the second most common infections in the body. Urinary tract infection can contribute to the formation of struvite stones in women. These types of kidney stones may become large, often causing intense pain.

4. Uric acid stones. Gout, which often occurs in men, creates an increase of uric acid in the body. This can contribute to uric acid kidney stones. Some types of chemotherapy also may contribute to the formation of uric acid kidney stones.

Affected by kidney stones

The NKUDIC reports that the occurrence of kidney stones among residents of the United States has been increasing over the last 30 years. Typically, men are afflicted with kidney stones more than women, with men ages 40 to 70 more likely to be affected. For women, the occurrence of kidney stones is more likely during their 50s. Kidney stones also occur in premature babies. If your father and/or mother suffered from kidney stones, it is likely you will suffer as well.

Fighting kidney stones

While inherited conditions and medical issues can cause kidney stones, you can help reduce your risk by keeping hydrated. The Library of Medicine cautions that if you do not drink enough fluid to make at least one liter (slightly more than a quart) of urine daily, your risk of forming kidney stones increases.

Kidney stone symptoms

Typically, pain from kidney stones may be felt in the abdomen and in the lower or side of the back. Your urine may be very dark and can even contain blood when kidney stones are present. Other symptoms may include, but are not limited to nausea, cramping, fever and chills.

Kidney stone treatment will vary depending on the number of stones present, their severity and the patient's needs. If you think you may be suffering from kidney stones, see your trusted physician.

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