Kidney stones are a hard collection of salt and minerals typically made up of calcium or uric acid salts. They form inside the kidney and travel to different parts of the body.
The stones may vary in size, ranging from a few millimeters to a few inches. Sometimes the stones can also become so large that they take up significant space in the kidney.
How does a kidney stone form?
It is formed when certain minerals in the body accumulate in the urine. When a person is dehydrated, the urine becomes more concentrated with higher levels of minerals, which makes it more likely to form a kidney stone.
Stones are more common in men than in women. In general, people who are obese or have diabetes are also more prone to it.
Smaller size stones usually go unnoticed because they don’t cause any symptoms. It is when the stone moves into the ureter, the patient experiences some symptoms. Kidney stones are typically very painful, and mostly the stones pass on their own without any treatment. However, if the stone size is big, surgery might be required to break up the stone that won’t pass.
What are the signs of kidney stones?
- Pain on one side of the lower back
The patient complains of pain in the lower back, or underneath the ribs. However, general back pain can be felt anywhere on the back, which should not be mistaken for a kidney stone.
- Pain with waves and changes in intensity
As the stone moves along the urinary tract, the patient experiences pain throughout the area. This pain can increase or decrease in intensity. The kidney stone pain usually starts high up, near the kidney, and it migrates towards the abdomen and then towards the groin as the stone moves towards the ureter.
- Pain that does not go away
The patients complain of a backache, which alleviates when they change their position. With kidney stones, the pain may not go away and at times some positions make it even worse.
- Severe pain
Backaches usually can range from mild to severe, while a kidney stone pain is very severe. The pain can occur suddenly even without any provoking events.
- Blood in urine
The urine’s color may change to pink, red or brown due to the presence of blood. This is called hematuria. Usually, microscopic evaluation is done for the same.
- Pain or burning sensation while urination
Once the stone reaches the junction between the ureter and the bladder, the patient might feel pain while urinating. This is called dysuria. The pain can be sharp and is sometimes mistaken for a urinary tract infection also.
- Urgent need to urinate
Needing to go to the washroom more frequently can be a sign that the stone is in the lower parts of the urinary tract.
- Smelly urine
Healthy urine is clear and does not have a strong odor, whereas if the urine is foul-smelling it could be a sign of a kidney stone or an infection.
Cloudiness is a sign of pus in the urine, called pyuria.
- Only a small amount of urine in one go
Large kidney stones can get stuck in the ureter, causing a blockage in the urine flow. This blockage results in the person only being able to urinate a little each time they try to urinate.
- Nausea and vomiting
Given that the kidneys share a common nerve with the gastrointestinal system, a stone in the kidney can upset the stomach. Nausea and vomiting are the body’s response to the intense pain.
- Fever and chills
The patient can have a fever usually high up to – 38-degree Celsius. Shivering or chills can often occur along with the fever.
How are kidney stones diagnosed?
Kidney stone surgery in India is usually done after testing the patient with all the tests mentioned below –
- Abdominal X-rays
- MRI of kidneys or abdomen
- Abdominal CT scans
How are kidney stones treated?
Treatment is tailored according to the type of stone. Urine samples are collected for evaluations. People are usually advised to drink six to eight glasses of water a day to increase urine flow. Patients who are dehydrated or have severe nausea may need intravenous fluids.
Other treatment options include:
- Medication – Pain relief medicines are of prime importance. Otherwise, the doctors prescribe antibiotics. Other medications can be –
- Allopurinol – for uric stones
- Thiazide diuretics to prevent calcium stones from forming
- Sodium bicarbonate to reduce urine acidity
- Ibuprofen for pain
- Surgery –
- Lithotripsy – Extracorporeal shock wave is used, which breaks large kidney stones into smaller parts that can pass through the ureter.
- Tunnel Surgery – the surgery is done to remove the stone causing the obstruction.
- Ureteroscopy – When the stone is stuck in the ureter the doctor uses an instrument called a ureteroscope to remove it. A small camera is inserted into the urethra and passed into the bladder during the procedure.