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The kidneys may be a pair of small organs but they perform a very important function. Without the kidneys, it is impossible to filter blood and remove toxins from the body. One of the common problems associated with kidneys is the development of a kidney stone. This can be described as a hard, pebble like substance that is formed when urine contains high levels of certain minerals. Kidney stones vary in size and shape. Small stones may pass through the ureter into the bladder and out of the body with minimal discomfort. However, in some cases, a kidney stone can be as large as a golf ball. In such cases, it can block the urine flow and cause extreme amounts of pain as well as bleeding. In such cases, a doctor needs to be consulted as early as possible.
There are four different types of kidney stones.
- Calcium Stones: This is the most common type of kidney stones. It is caused by excess calcium that is not flushed out with the urine.
- Uric acid stones: Highly acidic urine can trigger the development of such stones. This may be caused by excessive consumption of meat, fish and shell fish.
- Struvite stones: This is often formed as a side effect of Urinary tract infections. These stones may develop and grow rapidly.
- Cystine stones: These stones are formed as a result of a genetic disorder known as cystinuria. This disorder causes an amino acid known as cysteine to leak into the urine.
Kidney stones are a fairly common occurrence. It affects both men and women but men have a higher risk of developing kidney stones as compared to women. Other risk factors that can influence kidney stones are:
- Family history of kidney stones
- Not drinking enough water
- Digestive problems
- Recurrent UTIs
- Bowel inflammation
- Disease that causes blockage of the urinary tract
- Certain medications such as diuretics or calcium based antacids
Once a person has been diagnosed with a kidney stone, this issue can recur. Treatment for kidney stones depends on the type of stones, size and location. In most cases, medication is prescribed to help break the stone down into smaller parts so that it can pass through urine. In extreme cases, surgery may be required. If not treated in time, it can cause severe pain, bloody urine, UTIs that can further lead to kidney failure and reduced kidney functioning.
Kidney stones can be prevented by drinking plenty of fluids and making a few dietary changes. Ideally, a person should have a minimum of 8-10 glasses of water a day. If you have a high risk of developing any type of kidney stones, reduce your sodium consumption and the amount of meat eaten.