Kidney stones are one of the most prevalent medical issues in the United States, with 1 in 11 Americans developing them each year. Kidney stones occur when excess minerals, such as calcium and uric acid, clump together to form a hard mass, causing them to become stuck in the urinary tract.
Possible causes of kidney stones include dehydration, infections, medications, and an unhealthy diet. The most common treatment for kidney stones is to pass the stone naturally; however, some stones may require surgery. There are several ways to prevent kidney stones, including drinking plenty of fluids, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding high-sodium foods.
Kidney Stone Types
Kidney stones come in many different shapes, sizes, and compositions. However, they are typically classified by their location in the kidney or ureter (the tube connecting your bladder to your kidney) and chemical makeup. Types of kidney stones include:
Calcium Oxalate Stones
Calcium oxalate stones are the most common type of kidney stone. As the name suggests, these stones are made of calcium and oxalate. They typically form from a combination of dietary and genetic factors. To help prevent calcium oxalate stones, be sure to limit your intake of foods that are high in oxalate, such as:
- Black Tea
Dehydration can also play a role in developing calcium oxalate stones, so it is important to drink plenty of water throughout the day. These stones happen when your urine contains too much calcium and oxalate for the amount of water you drink. This causes the minerals to build up over time, forming a stone.
Calcium Phosphate Stones
Calcium phosphate stones are less common than calcium oxalate stones. Calcium phosphate stones usually occur due to renal tubular acidosis (a condition that causes the body to produce too much acid).
Struvite stones form in response to an infection in the urinary tract. These stones are more common in women than men because women typically have a higher risk of urinary tract infections. Struvite stones are made up of magnesium, ammonium, and phosphate and form when urine becomes too alkaline.
Treatment for struvite stones includes antibiotics to clear the infection and surgery to remove the stones. Although uncommon, struvite stones may be passed naturally. However, in most cases, the stone is too large to pass on its own and requires surgery to remove it.
Uric Acid Stones
Uric acid stones are the second most common type of kidney stone and are more often found in men. Uric acid stones happen when your urine contains too much uric acid to be filtered out. This causes crystals to form in the urine, which develops into stones over time. Several factors can cause uric acid stones, including:
- A diet high in red meat
- High alcohol consumption
- Conditions such as gout and inflammatory bowel disease
- Low urine output
Cystine stones are rare and typically form from a genetic mutation that causes the kidneys to excrete too much cystine called cystinuria. Cystine is a type of amino acid that is normally filtered out by the kidneys. When too much cystine builds up, it can cause stones to form.
Symptoms of Kidney Stones
Kidney stones can vary in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. As a rule of thumb, the bigger the stone, the more severe the symptoms. Symptoms of kidney stones can include:
- Severe pain in the back, side, or groin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blood in your urine
- Frequent urination
- Stomach aches
- Urine that smells bad
- Cloudy or pink urine
The best way to determine if you have a kidney stone is to see your doctor. They will likely do a physical exam and order some imaging tests such as a CT scan or an ultrasound to help determine the size and composition of your stone.
Contact Summit Medical Clinic
Summit Medical Clinic specializes in advanced nephrology and kidney care. Our team of nephrology experts is dedicated to providing patients with personalized, comprehensive care for all kidney-related conditions. If you or someone you know is showing signs or symptoms of a kidney stone, don’t wait – contact us today to schedule an appointment.