Kidney stones occur when salts and minerals in the urine combine to form crystals inside the kidneys. The process of forming kidney stones is known as nephrolithiasis.
For example, consider salt being added to water continuously. If the concentration of salt is low, it will be in a dissolved state. Once the concentration of salt exceeds a limit, it will crystallise. Similarly, in the kidneys, when the urine is concentrated due to a higher amount of salt excretion, or a lower amount of water excretion, minerals crystallise and form stones. Unlike a disease like chickenpox caused by a single virus, numerous factors can lead to different kidney stones.
What are the different types of kidney stones?
Where calcium oxalate stones predominate by a wide margin, other types of kidney stones matter because the prevention focuses on the type of the stone crystal. Each kidney stone requires specific treatment.
Some of these types of kidney stones are:
- Calcium stones
Most kidney stones are calcium stones, generally in the form of calcium oxalate. Oxalate is a substance that commonly occurs and is found in food & is produced by our liver daily.
Some fruits and vegetables, chocolates and nuts have a high content of oxalate. A high dose of vitamin D, dietary factors, and many metabolic disorders could increase oxalate or calcium in the urine. The kidney stone also arises from systemic conditions, like bowel disease, primary hyperoxaluria, or primary hyperparathyroidism. But, mainly, this kidney stone occurs simply from the interplay between inheritance, diet, and aspects of daily living.
- Struvite stones
Struvite stones get formed as a result of urinary tract infections. These kidney stones could swiftly grow and become very large, often with little warning or a few symptoms.
Kidneys do not have the capability to make struvite, which helps in breaking down these stones.
Since urine comprises urea, soil bacteria in the urinary tract can break it down to ammonia and create struvite from the phosphate and magnesium urine contains.
Eating undercooked food creates an intestinal bacterial population leading to the formation of struvite stones.
- Uric Acid stones
Uric acid is a breakdown product of DNA and RNA, and it forms crystals in abnormally acidic urine. These stones can be red or orange because uric acid crystals absorb haemoglobin breakdown products. Sometimes uric acid crystals pass in urine as red-orange gravel.
These stones form in individuals not drinking sufficient liquids or losing much fluid, those on a high protein diet, and gout. Certain genetic factors may also raise our risk of uric acid stones. Obese and diabetic people with gout or kidney disease typically produce acidic urine.
As these stones depend almost entirely on the acidity of the urine, uric acid stones are very easy to treat.
- Cystine stones
Cystine stone is a rare kidney stone that forms in the urine itself and can plug the ends of kidney tubules, causing cell damage.
Cystine stones form in individuals having a hereditary disorder, which leads kidneys to excrete an excessive amount of specific amino acids, also known as cystinuria. Because people with cystinuria lose significant amounts of cystine in their urine, stones readily grow large and fast.
How can we prevent stones?
Preventing kidney stones usually means altering urine chemistry that requires control of fluid intake, lifestyle, diet, and sometimes additional medications. By changing your lifestyle a little you can control and avoid the formation of these kidney stones which can save you from trouble.
A few things that can be done on a personal level are:
- Drink much water and other fluids to keep urine output at least more than 2 litres per day.
- Reduce harmful salts like Calcium oxalate, sodium, phosphorus and uric acid. Moderation in calcium intake is required.
- Eat many fruits. These are rich in stone inhibitors like potassium, citrate, magnesium and rich in antioxidants that protect against oxidative kidney damage.
- Reduce animal protein intake. Animal proteins have a lot of stone promoting contents. They also increase uric acid excretion.
- Doing aerobic exercises daily—a sedentary lifestyle damages not only the kidneys but also all vital organs.
All of these practices can reduce the formation of a kidney stone. From the above explanation, you would have understood that only some of the factors can be controlled; you can still form a stone despite all the efforts.
Understandably, kidney stones are common yet terrible. If you notice or observe any symptom, make yourself aware of what might increase the cause for kidney stones. Delaying the treatment increases the chances of complications and the growth of the stones. Thus, choosing a good healthcare provider that offers minimally invasive treatment is the best way to free yourself from the pain and lead a healthier life.