What Are Kidney Stones?
As the kidneys filter waste from the blood, they create urine. Sometimes, salts and other minerals in urine stick together to form small kidney stones. These range from the size of a sugar crystal to a ping pong ball, but they are rarely noticed unless they cause a blockage. They may cause intense pain if they break loose and push into the ureters, the narrow ducts leading to the bladder.
Small stones may pass without causing symptoms.
If a kidney stone seems small enough, your doctor may recommend you take pain medicine and wait for the stone to pass out of the body on its own. During this time, your doctor may recommend that you drink enough water and fluids to keep urine clear about eight to 10 glasses a day.
Kidney stones may form when there’s a change in the normal balance of the water, salts, and minerals found in urine. Different kinds of changes result in different types of kidney stones. There are many factors that can trigger changes in the urine, ranging from chronic medical conditions to what you eat and drink.
The greatest risk factor for kidney stones is making less than one liter of urine per day. This is why kidney stones are common in premature infants who have kidney problems.
Kidney stones are most likely to occur between the ages of 20 and 40. Different factors can increase your risk of developing a stone. Typically, Caucasians are more likely to have kidney stones than African Americans. Sex also plays a role, with more men than women developing kidney stones, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). A history of kidney stones can increase your risk, as does a family history of kidney stones.
Other risk factors include:
- High-protein, salt, or glucose diet.
- Hyperparathyroid condition.
- Gastric bypass surgery.
- Inflammatory bowel diseases that increase calcium absorption.
- Taking medications such as diuretics, anti-seizure drugs, and calcium-based antacids.