A kidney stone is a solid mass that develops in the kidneys. The size of this crystalized mass can come in various forms; ranging from an object as small as a pea or as large as a ping pong ball.
These kidney stones are made up of crystal-causing compounds that your urine is unable to dilute.
While these crystallized stones can pass through the urinary tract with little problem, larger ones can block the urinary tract, causing severe pain. This can lead to an infection or kidney damage.
Let’s learn more about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options available for kidney stones.
The Function of the Kidneys
Before we cover kidney stones, it’s important to consider the organ where they form in the first place: the kidney.
The kidneys are a pair of organs that are located in the middle to lower back, on either side of the spine. These bean-shaped organs are medium-sized—about the size of a fist.
The kidneys are responsible for a slew of different bodily functions. In particular, the primary responsibilities of the kidney include the following:
- Filtering out byproducts in the blood
- Regulating blood pressure
- Aiding in the production of red blood cells
- Promoting bone health through calcium homeostasis
More specifically, inside the kidneys are millions of tiny filtering units called nephrons. These nephrons do the majority of the kidney’s work. Each nephron contains a filtering unit called the glomerulus, which is a tiny ball of blood vessels.
The glomerulus sifts the blood, removing wastes and excess fluids, which are then passed out of the body in the form of urine. The filtered blood is then reabsorbed into the circulatory system by the kidney’s tubules.
In short, the kidneys are vital to your overall health. And when kidney stones form, this can put a serious damper on their important functions.
What Causes Kidney Stones to Form?
When there’s a sizable increase of crystal-causing substances in your kidney—particularly calcium, oxalate, and uric acid—urine may crystalize due to the increased concentration of these compounds.
Another possible reason why the kidneys form stones is a decreased level of “inhibitors” within the kidneys. These inhibitors are substances that keep crystals from sticking together and forming stones.
When there’s too little of these inhibitors, kidney stones may form as nothing is stopping them.
Many factors can contribute to you developing kidney stones. These include:
- Dehydration: Water is vitally important, and a lack of it can cause kidney stones. When your body doesn’t have enough fluids, it’s unable to properly dilute urine. This can lead to an increased concentration of minerals and salts, which can then form uric acid stones.
- An unhealthy diet: Eating too much salty food (<10g a day) increased the prevalence of hypercalciuria and calcium oxalate stones. Overconsumption of sugary food and fructose can also lead to the same risk.
- Infections: Some types of stones like Struvite stones are caused by urinary tract infections.
- Weight loss surgery: People who have had weight loss surgery or gastric bypass surgery are at an increased risk for kidney stones, particularly calcium stones. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease, digestive and kidney diseases, or chronic diarrhea are also at risk. (Learn about safe weight loss programs)
- Family history: If you have a family member with kidney stones, you’re also more likely to develop kidney stones, particularly Cystine stones, later in life.
- Lack of or too much exercise: A sedentary lifestyle can contribute to kidney stones, as can too much strenuous activity.
Symptoms of Kidney Stones
Pain and blood in the urine are hallmark symptoms of kidney stones. This is often caused by a kidney stone getting lodged in the ureter, the passageway between the kidney and bladder.
That said, many other conditions also come with these same symptoms. That’s why it’s important to get in touch with a urologist to get an accurate diagnosis.
Other symptoms of kidney stones may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fever and chills
- Difficulty or inability to urinate
- Foul-smelling and cloudy urine
- Severe colicky pain
Diagnosis of Kidney Stones
A health care provider will let you undergo a series of tests before making a kidney stone diagnosis. These may include:
- Blood tests: Blood tests can provide information about the state of your kidneys and possible infections.
- Imaging tests: Ultrasounds and X-Rays may be conducted to check for kidney stones as well as possible treatment plans.
- Urine tests: A 24-hour urine collection will provide a glimpse of the substances within your urine and whether or not you have an infection.
Treatment for Kidney Stones
Doctors may prescribe medication, surgery, or a combination of treatment plans for men’s health to treat kidney stones.
The most common medications prescribed for kidney stones are tamsulosin and nifedipine. These drugs help to relax the smooth muscle in your ureter, making it easier for stones to pass through.
To ease the pain, doctors may also prescribe ibuprofen. However, doctors will have to monitor patients carefully as ibuprofen and other medications can cause harmful side effects to those experiencing an acute attack of kidney stones.
Surgery is only recommended if the kidney stones are too large to pass on their own or if they’re obstructing the urinary tract.
There are four main types of surgery, three of which are minimally invasive.
- Shockwave lithotripsy: This treatment uses shockwaves that pass through water to break up stones.
- Ureteroscopy: A device called a ureteroscope detects stones and destroys them using a laser.
- Percutaneous nephrolithotomy: A small incision is made in your back. There, a tube gets inserted, allowing an ultrasound probe to enter and disintegrate the stones.
- Open stone surgery: An actual surgery occurs to manually remove the stones.
Get in touch with a medical professional before choosing a treatment plan.
Contact Ft. Lauderdale’s Leading Men’s Clinic for Medical Guidance Today
Kidney stones are a fairly common occurrence, affecting around 12% of people around the world.
Fortunately, there are several options available to prevent kidney stone damage, from medication to minimally invasive surgery.
If you think you may have kidney stones—or want to be proactive and prevent kidney stones from forming—get in touch with a doctor or urologist as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis.
The medical professionals at Ft. Lauderdale’s Preferred Men’s Medical Center specialize in treating conditions that impact men’s health. Our concierge approach positions your unique case at the centerpoint of our focus. We don’t just give you a pill and send you on your way. We treat the underlying issues that led to conditions such as ED, PE, Low Testosterone, and more. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment.