What is a kidney stone?
A kidney stone is a hard, crystalline mineral material formed within the kidney or urinary tract. Kidney stones are a common cause of blood in the urine (hematuria) and often severe pain in the abdomen, flank, or groin. Kidney stones are sometimes called renal calculi.
The condition of having kidney stones is termed nephrolithiasis. Having stones at any location in the urinary tract is referred to as urolithiasis, and the term ureterolithiasis is used to refer to stones located in the ureters.
Conditions and Treatments Offered
A kidney stone usually remains symptomless until it moves into the ureter. When symptoms of kidney stones become apparent, they commonly include:
- Severe pain in the groin and/or side
- Blood in urine
- Vomiting and nausea
- White blood cells or pus in the urine
- Reduced amount of urine excreted
- Burning sensation during urination
- Persistent urge to urinate
- Fever and chills if there is an infection
Kidney stones that remain inside the body can also lead to many complications, including blockage of the the tube connecting the kidney to the bladder, which obstructs the path that urine uses to leave the body.
According to research, people with kidney stones have a significantly higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease.
- Kidney stones can vary in size. Some have been known to grow as large as golf balls.
- The leading cause of kidney stones is a lack of water in the body.
- Stones are more commonly found in individuals who drink less than the recommended eight to ten glasses of water a day.
- When there is not enough water to dilute the uric acid, a component of urine, the urine becomes more acidic.
- An excessively acidic environment in urine can lead to the formation of kidney stones.
- Medical conditions such as Crohn's disease, urinary tract infections, renal tubular acidosis, hyperparathyroidism, medullary sponge kidney, and Dent's disease increase the risk of kidney stones.
Kidney stones are more common among males than females. Most people who experience kidney stones do so between the ages of 30 and 50 years. A family history of kidney stones also increases one's chances of developing them.
Similarly, a previous kidney stone occurrence increases the risk that a person will develop subsequent stones in the future if preventative action is not taken.
Certain medications can increase the risk of developing kidney stones. Scientists found that topiramate (Topamax), a drug commonly prescribed to treat seizures and migraine headaches, can increase the likelihood of kidney stones developing.
Additionally, it is possible that long-term use of vitamin D and calcium supplements cause high calcium levels, which can contribute to kidney stones.
Additional risk factors for kidney stones include diets that are high in protein and sodium but low in calcium, a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, high blood pressure, and conditions that affect how calcium is absorbed in the body such as gastric bypass surgery, inflammatory bowel disease, and chronic diarrhea.
Treating kidney stones is primarily focused on symptom management. Passing a stone can be very painful.
If a person has a history of kidney stones, home treatment may be suitable. Individuals who have never passed a kidney stone should speak with a doctor.
If hospital treatment is needed, an individual may be rehydrated via an intravenous (IV) tube, and anti-inflammatory medication may also be administered.
Narcotics are often used in an effort to make the pain of passing the stone tolerable. Antiemetic medication can be used in people experiencing nausea and vomiting.
In some cases, a urologist can perform a shock wave therapy called lithotripsy. This is a treatment that breaks the kidney stone into smaller pieces and allow it to pass.
People with large stones located in regions that do not allow for lithotripsy may receive surgical procedures, such as removal of the stone via an incision in the back or by inserting a thin tube into the urethra.
Causes & Symptoms
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
In most men, the prostate gland normally enlarges with age. This may be due to changes in sex hormone levels that occur with normal aging. In some men, the enlarged prostate causes few or no symptoms, while in others the symptoms can be very bothersome. It is not clear why some men develop symptoms and others do not. The severity of symptoms is not necessarily related to the how large the prostate has become. Men with a family history of BPH may be more likely to develop the disease. BPH does not increase your risk for prostate cancer.
The most common symptoms of BPH are:
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Difficulty starting urination
- Weak or interrupted urine stream
- Leaking or dribbling of urine
Symptoms of BPH tend to gradually worsen over years, although in some men symptoms may stay the same, or even improve. Occasionally, BPH can cause urinary retention, which is the inability to empty the bladder. The symptoms of BPH can be caused by other conditions, so be sure to tell your healthcare provider about any symptoms you are having.
Urinary retention (inability to urinate) is a serious complication of severe BPH that requires immediate medical attention.
Acute prostatitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection. If the infection is not successfully treated, prostatitis can recur and become chronic prostatitis, which can be more difficult to treat. Prostatitis can also be caused by surgery or trauma that has damaged nerves in that area of the body. Many times, no cause of prostatitis is found. Prostatitis does not increase the risk for prostate cancer. Risk factors for prostatitis are:
- Having a urinary tract or bladder infection
- Having an injury to the pelvis
- Having a urinary catheter (a tube inserted into the urethra to drain urine from the bladder)
- Having a past episode of prostatitis
- Having a prostate biopsy
- Having HIV / AIDS
Symptoms of prostatitis may include:
- Pain or burning with urination
- Difficulty starting urination (hesitancy) or dribbling
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Urgent need to urinate
- Urine that is cloudy (not clear), or blood in the urine
- Pain in the abdomen, groin, or lower back
- Painful ejaculation
- Flu-like symptoms (more common if the cause is bacterial infection)
The cause of prostate cancer is unknown. It most likely includes both risk factors that are inherited, and those that are a result of lifestyle or environment. Some risk factors that have been identified include:
- Older age
- Race - black men are at higher risk compared to men of other races. Black men are also more likely to have more aggressive forms of prostate cancer
- Family history – a strong family history of prostate cancer in men or breast cancer in women
- Obesity – obese men tend to have more advanced disease that is more difficult to treat
- Diet – a diet high in animal fats and low in vegetables may increase the risk of prostate cancer
Prostate cancer often causes no symptoms in the early stages. In more advanced disease, growth or spread of the cancer other parts of the body may cause:
- Difficulty urinating
- Weak urine stream
- Difficulty with erections
- Blood in the semen
- Pain or discomfort in the pelvic area
- Bone pain
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