Kidney stone is also known as renal calculus or nephrolith which could be of any colour but are most commonly found to be yellow-brown. They are formed by different minerals as well as salts in the urine. The tiny crystals that form in the urine sticks together to create larger crystals that stay in the kidney or move through the urinary tract resulting in blockage and causing excruciating pain. When the pressure builds up due to blocked urine, the kidney may swell leading to hydronephrosis. If the kidney stone is lodged further down in the ureter, the urine blocked may also cause the ureter to swell resulting in hydroureter and painful spasms of the ureter.
Some people never find out that they have kidney stones as they are small enough to allow the kidney to function normally without any trace of pain or discomfort. These are called “silent stones”.
It is a common problem among people between the ages of 35 to 55 years. A family history is known to enhance the risk of kidney stones. Besides, an episode of kidney stone could lead to subsequent stone formation if failed to follow preventive measures. Certain medications, obesity, high protein intake, high calcium or sodium intake could also lead to kidney stones. There is a link between dehydration and kidney stones. People living in hot climates, working under hot conditions, sports persons etc. are among the high-risk population.
Lack of hydration is the predominant cause for kidney stones. People who stay hydrated have a reduced risk than their dehydrated counterparts. The standard water intake should be not less than 3 to 4 liters per day or more depending on the climate and the activity of the person. When there is not enough water to dilute the uric acid, the pH level within the kidneys drops and becomes more acidic. An acidic environment in the kidney is favourable for stone formation. Some common medical conditions responsible for this are Crohn’s disease, renal tubular acidosis, medullary sponge kidney, urinary tract infections and hyperparathyroidism.
A kidney stone usually remains symptomless until there is a blockage. It is characterized by excruciating pain in the groin or along the sides, nausea and vomiting, blood and pus in the urine, persistent urge to urinate, dysuria, oliguria, and fever and chills in case of an infection.
The treatment procedure involves lithotripsy where the urologist breaks down the kidney stones to small pieces and enables it to pass through urine. In cases where the large stones are lodged in regions that do not allow lithotripsy, the urologist resorts to ureteroscopic stone removal or a surgical procedure known as percutaneous nephrolithotomy.
Prevention of kidney stones in healthy individuals or averting a relapse can be as easy as staying hydrated. Drinking at least 8-10 glasses of water per day would ward-off the danger or kidney stones. Ensuring a clear urine output rather than the yellow colour is a sure sign of being safe from kidney stones.