The body uses food for energy and tissue repair. After the body uses what it needs, waste products in the bloodstream are carried to the kidneys and subsequently excreted as urine. Kidney stones typically form when your urine contains more crystal-forming substances than what the fluid in your urine can dilute.
What are the types of kidney stones?
There are four major types of kidney stones:
- Calcium stones are the most common type of kidney stone and occur in two major forms: calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate. Calcium oxalate stones are more common. Calcium oxalate stone formation may be caused by high calcium and high oxalate excretion. Calcium phosphate stones are caused by the combination of high urine calcium and alkaline urine, meaning the urine has a high pH.
- Uric acid stones form when the urine is persistently acidic. A diet rich in purines—substances found in animal protein such as meats, fish, and shellfish—may increase uric acid in urine. If uric acid becomes concentrated in the urine, it can settle and form a stone by itself or along with calcium.
- Struvite stones result from kidney infections. Eliminating infected stones from the urinary tract and staying infection-free can prevent more struvite stones.
- Cystine stones result from a genetic disorder that causes cystine to leak through the kidneys and into the urine, forming crystals that tend to accumulate into stones.
What are the symptoms of kidney stones?
People with kidney stones may have pain while urinating, see blood in the urine, or feel a sharp pain in the back or lower abdomen. The pain may last for a short or long time. People may experience nausea and vomiting with the pain. However, people who have small stones that pass easily through the urinary tract may not have symptoms at all.
How can kidney stones be prevented?
The first step in preventing kidney stones is to understand what is causing the stones to form. The health care provider may ask the person to try to catch the kidney stone as it passes, so it can be sent to a lab for analysis. Stones that are retrieved surgically can also be sent to a lab for analysis.
The health care provider may ask the person to collect urine for 24 hours after a stone has passed or been removed to measure daily urine volume and mineral levels. Producing too little urine or having a mineral abnormality can make a person more likely to form stones. Kidney stones may be prevented through changes in eating, diet, and nutrition and medications.
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