What Are Kidney Stones?

Taking care of your body is a very important part of your everyday lifestyle. You try to avoid potential health problems by exercising and eating right. Nevertheless, some health issues and concerns may develop when you least expect it. One of these issues includes kidney stones.

Kidney stones, also called calculi or renal lithiasis, are hard crystals that form in your kidneys – two very important organs that remove excess waste and liquid from your blood. Renal lithiasis forms from different types of minerals, waste products and other substances found in your body. These things include calcium, oxalate and salt. You generally get most of these substances from the food you eat; however, your organs also produce some of these substances.

Kidney stones range in size and hardness. Stones can be as small and light as grains of sand, or they can be as large and hard as golf balls. Very small stones usually leave your body unnoticed when you urinate. Large calculi tend to cause severe pain, which generally demands medical attention. Knowing what kidney stones are may help you prevent them from forming in the first place.

What Are the Causes of Kidney Stones?

The main cause of kidney stones is unknown, but the following are a few of the things that may influence their development.

• Your urine normally contains liquid, minerals and waste products your body no longer needs. If you have too much of these things present in your urine, they may build up and cause potential problems.
• Another cause of stone formation is the lack of water in your urine. This problem often comes from not drinking enough water. Water helps remove the bad stuff from your kidneys.
• Kidney stones can run in your family. If you have a family history of kidney problems, you may also be susceptible. Cystinuria is one type of problem that develops in families. This condition forms stones from cystine, an amino acid.

What Are the Symptoms of Kidney Stones?

Unless your stones become large enough to produce pain or some discomfort, you may not have any noticeable symptoms. If the stones grow in size, they can produce great pain as they try to pass through your ureters and block the flow of urine. Ureters are two tubes that carry urine from your kidneys to your bladder – the organ that stores urine until you urinate. You can also feel pain in your groin, back and abdomen.

The symptoms include:

• nausea
• vomiting
• blood in your urine
• pain or burning as you try to urinate (may be caused by stones trying to pass out of your body)
• the need to urinate often

How Does Your Doctor Diagnose Kidney Stones?

A physician will take x-rays of your kidneys if you complain of symptoms. This diagnostic tool may show the size and location of the stones. Your doctor may use blood and urine tests to find excess minerals and other substances in your body.

Are There Any Healthy Alternatives for Treatment?

Although a doctor may prescribe pain medication to relieve your discomfort, drinking water is often the best and healthiest way to treat kidney stones. You may need to drink 2 to 3 quarts of water each day until your symptoms disappear. The stone may pass during this time.

Prevention and Lifestyle Changes

Changing your current lifestyle and diet habits can help you get better and prevent future problems. You may need to avoid foods and diet supplements that contain calcium or vitamin D if yours tend to develop from having too much calcium in your urine and blood. Avoiding acidic foods or those containing oxalates may also help. Foods containing high amounts of oxalates include peanuts, okra and spinach.

Do not forget to drink eight to 10 glasses of water each day. Though other liquids may help, water is the best remedy.

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