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Kidney stones (also known as nephrolithiasis or renal lithiasis) are one of the most common disorders of the urinary tract and result in almost three million visits to health care providers and more than half a million emergency room visits a year in the United States. Small and firm, they are formed from deposits of mineral and acid salts that are made in the kidneys. These stones can form for many reasons, but most often occur because your urine has become more concentrated than usual, a condition which makes it easier for minerals within it to crystallize and consolidate. The stones can be so small as to be invisible to the naked eye, or can be as large as a pearl—which can determine whether or not you can pass them without intervention. .“Passing” a kidney stone refers to having it leave your body via your urinary tract. There are several factors that can influence your ability to pass a kidney stone, including how big you are, prior stone passage, prostate enlargement, pregnancy, and the size of the stone Depending on your particular situation, you may only need to drink lots of water and take pain medication to pass a kidney stone. If, however, a kidney stone becomes lodged in your urinary tract or causes other complications, surgery may be necessary. It can be quite painful to pass kidney stones, though they usually cause not permanent damage
In the United States, 1 in 11 people (or 8% of the population) has had a kidney stone at some point. A study that appeared in the journal Urology in 2010 found that the incidence of kidney stones is increasing globally. In the United States, their prevalence has remained fairly steady since the 1980s, but has increased greatly since the 1970s, when the incidence in the USA was less the four percent of the population. Caucasians are more susceptible to developing kidney stones than African Americans, and they occur more frequently in men than in women. Prevalence increases as men pass the age of 40, whereas prevalence peaks for women in their 50s. And if you have had a kidney stone, you are at greater risk of developing others.
Urine naturally contains certain substances that are prone to forming crystals, like uric acid, oxalate (a substance produced by your liver and also found in foods, especially chocolate, nuts, and certain fruits and vegetables), and calcium. Normally, the fluid in your urine is able to dilute them, but when it can’t, stones can develop. Your urine may also not have enough of the substances that discourage calcium formation, another factor favoring the development of kidney stones. There are different kinds of kidney stones, and each forms due to a different set of circumstances:
There are several factors that influence the risk of developing kidney stones. These include:
Your physician may use any of several diagnostic tests, or a combination of them, to decide if you have kidney stones. These include:
You may have heard people talk about how painful kidney stones are. But at first, you may not even know you have them. It’s only when they shift position inside your bladder, or travel into the ureter—the tube that links your kidney to your bladder—that you may feel any or all of these symptoms:
Although kidney stones can be very painful, they can usually be removed from the body without causing any lasting problems. But don’t wait to call your physician if you experience symptoms of a kidney stone since stones can cause urinary tract infections, and leaving them untreated can result in kidney scarring or permanent damage. If the cause of your kidney stones isn’t determined and addressed, you also run a higher risk of developing them again.
If you have large kidney stones, you may need treatment in a hospital, which may include surgery. But if your kidney stones are small, chances are you will be able to pass them on your own without any invasive treatment. During this time, your physician may advise you to do the following:
Your doctor typically won’t screen you for kidney stones. But if she recognizes several symptoms of them, she will most likely conduct diagnostic tests to determine whether or not you have them.
Certain lifestyle adjustments and medications can help prevent kidney stones:
If tests reveal your kidney stones are small, you may be able to take certain steps to pass them on your own. But if they are too large to pass, or are causing problems such as urinary tract infections, bleeding, or damage to your kidneys, you may need to undergo one of the following procedures:
There are various alternative treatments that have been used to help pass kidney stones naturally. Among them, the most popular and reportedly effective, is a drink made from lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, and raw apple cider vinegar, which helps break up the stones and eases their passing.
Some studies have shown that magnesium supplements can help prevent kidney stones, as well as reduce their size for easier passing.
Be sure to talk to your doctor about what is right for you.
If you think you may have kidney stones, schedule an appointment with your doctor. He or she will be able to conduct diagnostic tests to determine whether or not kidney stone is the root cause of your problems. Call if you experience any of the following:
Several types of doctors are able to help with kidney stones:
For more information on kidney stones, visit:
You may wish to ask your doctor the following:
Questions to ask before or shortly after a diagnosis:
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