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Kidney Stones

Kidney stones

Definition

Kidney stones are solid accumulations of material that form in the tubal system of the kidney. Kidney stones cause problems when they block the flow of urine through or out of the kidney. When the stones move through the ureter, they cause severe pain .

Description

Urine is formed by the kidneys. Blood flows into the kidneys, and nephrons (specialized tubes) within the kidneys allow a certain amount of fluid from the blood, and certain substances dissolved in that fluid, to flow out of the body as urine. Sometimes, a problem causes the dissolved substances to become solid again. Tiny crystals may form in the urine, meet, and cling together to create a larger solid mass called a kidney stone.

Many people do not ever find out that they have stones in their kidneys. These stones are small enough to allow the kidney to continue functioning normally, never causing any pain. These are called "silent stones." Kidney stones cause problems when they interfere with the normal flow of urine. They can obstruct (block) the flow through the ureter (a tube) that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder. The kidney is not accustomed to experiencing any pressure. When pressure builds from backed-up urine, the kidney may swell (hydronephrosis). If the kidney is subjected to this pressure for some time, there may be damage to the delicate kidney structures. When the kidney stone is lodged further down the ureter, the backed-up urine may also cause the ureter to swell (hydroureter). Because the ureter is a muscular tube, the presence of a stone will cause the tube to go into a spasm,, causing severe pain.

About 10% of all people will have a kidney stone in their lifetime. Kidney stones are most common among male Caucasians over the age of 30, people who have previously had kidney stones, and relatives of kidney stone patients.

Causes & symptoms

Kidney stones can be composed of a variety of substances. The most common types of kidney stones are described here.

Calcium stones

About 80% of all kidney stones fall into this category. These stones are composed of either calcium and phosphate or calcium and oxalate. People with calcium stones may have other diseases that cause them to have increased blood levels of calcium. These diseases include primary parathyroidism, sarcoidosis, hyperthyroidism , renal tubular acidosis, multiple myeloma, hyperoxaluria, and some types of cancer .

Struvite stones

This type accounts for 10% of all kidney stones. Struvite stones are composed of magnesium ammonium phosphate. These stones occur most often in patients who have had repeated urinary tract infections with certain types of bacteria. These bacteria produce a sub-stance called urease, which increases the urine pH and makes the urine more alkaline and less acidic. This chemical environment allows struvite to settle out of the urine, forming stones.

Uric acid stones

About 5% of all kidney stones are uric acid stones. These occur when increased amounts of uric acid circulate in the bloodstream. When the uric acid content becomes very high, it can no longer remain dissolved and solid particles of uric acid settle out of the urine. A kidney stone is formed when these particles cling to each other within the kidney, slowly forming a solid mass. About half of all patients with this type of stone also have deposits of uric acid elsewhere in their bodies, commonly in the joint of the big toe. This painful disorder is called gout . Other causes of uric acid stones include chemotherapy for cancer; certain bone marrow disorders in which blood cells are overproduced; and an inherited disorder called Lesch-Nyhan syndrome.

Cystine stones

These account for 2% of all kidney stones. Cystine is a type of amino acid, and people with this type of kidney stone have an abnormality in the way their bodies process amino acids in the diet.

Patients who have kidney stones usually do not have symptoms until the stones pass into the ureter. Prior to this development, some people may notice blood in their urine. Once the stone is in the ureter, however, most people will experience bouts of very severe pain. The pain is crampy and spasmodic, and is referred to as "colic." The pain usually begins in the flank region, the area between the lower ribs and the hip bone. As the stone moves closer to the bladder, a patient will often feel the pain radiating along the inner thigh. Women may feel the pain in the vulva, while men often feel pain in the testicles. Nausea, vomiting , extremely frequent and painful urination, and blood in the urine are common. Fever and chills usually mean that the ureter has become obstructed, allowing bacteria to become trapped in the kidney and cause a kidney infection (pyelonephritis).

Diagnosis

A diagnosis of kidney stones is based on the patient's history of the severe distinctive pain associated with the stones. Diagnosis includes laboratory examination of a urine sample and an x-ray examination. During the passage of a stone, examination of the urine almost always reveals blood. A number of x-ray tests are used to diagnose kidney stones. A plain x ray of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder may or may not reveal the stone. A series of x rays taken after injecting iodine dye into a vein is usually a more reliable way of seeing a stone. This procedure is called an intravenous pyelogram (IVP). The dye "lights up" the urinary system as it travels. In the case of an obstruction, the dye will be stopped by the stone or will only be able to get past the stone at a slow trickle. An ultrasound can also be used to detect renal blockage. Recently, the use of computed tomography (CT) scans has been added to the diagnosis of some kidney stones, more as a follow-up after treatment to detect how fragile or intact a stone might be.

When a patient is passing a kidney stone, it is important that all of his or her urine is strained through a special sieve to catch the stone. The stone can then be sent to a laboratory for analysis to determine the chemical composition of the stone. After the kidney stone has been passed, other tests are required to understand the underlying condition that may have caused the stone to form. Collecting urine for 24 hours, followed by careful analysis of its chemical makeup, can often determine the reason for stone formation.

Treatment

It is believed that stones may pass more quickly if the patient is encouraged to drink large amounts of water (23 quarts per day).

Herbal remedies that have anti-lithic (stone-dissolving) action can assist in dissolving small kidney stones. These include gravel root (Eupatorium purpureum ), hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens ), and wild carrot (Daucus carota ). Starfruit (Averrhoa carambola ) is recommended to increase the amount of urine a patient passes and to relieve pain. A Chinese herbal practitioner may use such herbs as Semen Abutili seu Malvae, Semen Plantaginis, and Herba Lygodii Japonici for urinary stones. Dietary changes can be made to reduce the risk of future stone formation and to facilitate the resorption of existing stones. Supplementation with magnesium, a smooth muscle relaxant, can help reduce pain and facilitate stone passing. Guided imagery may also be used to help relieve pain. Extremely large stones may require surgical intervention.

Allopathic treatment

A patient with a kidney stone will say that the most important aspect of treatment is adequate pain relief. Because the pain of passing a kidney stone is so severe, narcotic pain medications (such as morphine) are usually required. If the patient is vomiting or unable to drink fluids because of the pain, it may be necessary to provide intra-venous fluids. If symptoms and urine tests indicate the presence of infection, antibiotics are required.

Although most kidney stones pass on their own, some do not. Surgical removal of a stone may become necessary when a stone appears too large to pass. Surgery may also be required if the stone is causing serious obstructions, pain that cannot be treated, heavy bleeding, or infection. Several alternatives exist for removing stones. One method involves inserting a tube into the bladder and up into the ureter. A tiny basket is then passed through the tube, and an attempt is made to snare the stone and pull it out. Open surgery to remove an obstructing kidney stone was relatively common in the past, but current methods allow the stone to be pulverized (crushed) with shock waves (called lithotripsy). These shock waves may be aimed at the stone from outside of the body by passing the necessary equipment through the bladder and into the ureter. The shock waves may be aimed at the stone from inside the body by placing the instrument through a tiny incision located near the stone. The stone fragments may then pass on their own or may be removed through the incision. These methods considerably reduce a patient's recovery time when compared to the traditional open operation. Some patients may have a follow-up CT scan to determine if the lithotripsy procedure successfully removed all stones.

Expected results

A patient's prognosis depends on the underlying disorder causing the development of kidney stones. In most cases, patients with uncomplicated calcium stones will recover very well. About 60% of these patients, however, will have other kidney stones. Struvite stones are particularly dangerous because they may grow extremely large, filling the tubes within the kidney. These are called staghorn stones and will not pass out in the urine. They will require surgical removal. Uric acid stones may also become staghorn stones.

Prevention

Prevention of kidney stones depends on the type of stone and the presence or absence of an underlying disease. In almost all cases, increasing fluid intake so that a person consistently drinks several quarts of water a day is an important preventative measure. Patients with calcium stones may benefit from taking a medication called a diuretic, which has the effect of decreasing the amount of calcium passed in the urine. While it was once believed that eating a low-calcium diet was helpful for patients with calcium oxalate stones, new research seems to prove otherwise. An Italian study published early in 2002 reported that a low-salt, low-meat diet

Other items in the diet that may encourage calcium oxalate stone formation include beer, black pepper, berries, broccoli, chocolate, spinach, and tea. Uric acid stones may require treatment with a medication called allopurinol. Struvite stones will require removal and the patient should receive an antibiotic. When a disease is identified as the cause of stone formation, treatment specific to that disease may decrease the likelihood of recurrent stones.

Resources

BOOKS

Asplin, John R., et al. "Nephrolithiasis." In Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, edited by Anthony S. Fauci, et al. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998.

PERIODICALS

"CT Scans Reveal Structure of Stone." Medical Update (January 2002): 7.

DiLoreto, Stacy. "Which Diet Prevents Recurent Kidney Stones?." Patient Care (March 2002): 94.

Goshorn, Janet. "Kidney Stones: Strategies for Managing This Common, Excruciating Condition." American Journal of Nursing 96 no. 9 (September 1996): 40+.

Squires, Sally. "New Guidelines Issued for Kidney Stones." The Washington Post 120 no. 280 (October 7, 1997): WH7.

ORGANIZATIONS

American Foundation for Urologic Disease. 300 West Pratt St., Baltimore, MD 21201-2463. (800) 242-2383.

National Kidney Foundation. 30 East 33rd St., New York, NY 10016. (800) 622-9010.

Paula Ford-Martin

Teresa G. Odle

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Ford-Martin, Paula; Odle, Teresa. "Kidney Stones." Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Ford-Martin, Paula; Odle, Teresa. "Kidney Stones." Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3435100453.html

Ford-Martin, Paula; Odle, Teresa. "Kidney Stones." Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. 2005. Retrieved July 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3435100453.html

Kidney Stones

Kidney Stones

Definition

Kidney stones are solid accumulations of material that form in the tubal system of the kidney. Kidney stones cause problems when they block the flow of urine through or out of the kidney. When the stones move along the ureter, they cause severe pain.

Description

Urine is formed by the kidneys. Blood flows into the kidneys, and specialized tubes (nephrons) within the kidneys allow a certain amount of fluid from the blood, and certain substances dissolved in that fluid, to flow out of the body as urine. Sometimes, a problem causes the dissolved substances to become solid again. Tiny crystals may form in the urine, meet, and cling together to create a larger solid mass called a kidney stone.

Many people do not ever find out that they have stones in their kidneys. These stones are small enough to allow the kidney to continue functioning normally, never causing any pain. These are called "silent stones." Kidney stones cause problems when they interfere with the normal flow of urine. They can block (obstruct) the flow down the tube (the ureter) that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder. The kidney is not accustomed to experiencing any pressure. When pressure builds from backed-up urine, the kidney may swell (hydronephrosis ). If the kidney is subjected to this pressure for some time, it may cause damage to the delicate kidney structures. When the kidney stone is lodged further down the ureter, the backed-up urine may also cause the ureter to swell (hydroureter). Because the ureters are muscular tubes, the presence of a stone will make these muscular tubes spasm, causing severe pain.

About 10% of all people will have a kidney stone in his or her lifetime. Kidney stones are most common among:

  • Caucasians
  • Males
  • People over the age of 30
  • People who have had kidney stones previously
  • Relatives of kidney stone patients

Causes and symptoms

Kidney stones can be composed of a variety of substances. The most common types of kidney stones include:

  • Calcium stones. About 80% of all kidney stones fall into this category. These stones are composed of either calcium and phosphate, or calcium and oxalate. People with calcium stones may have other diseases that cause them to have increased blood levels of calcium. These diseases include primary parathyroidism, sarcoidosis, hyperthyroidism, renal tubular acidosis, multiple myeloma, hyperoxaluria, and some types of cancer. A diet heavy in meat, fish, and poultry can cause calcium oxalate stones.
  • Struvite stones. About 10% of all kidney stones fall into this category. This type of stone is composed of magnesium ammonium phosphate. These stones occur most often when patients have had repeated urinary tract infections with certain types of bacteria. These bacteria produce a substance called urease, which increases the urine pH and makes the urine more alkaline and less acidic. This chemical environment allows struvite to settle out of the urine, forming stones.
  • Uric acid stones. About 5% of all kidney stones fall into this category. Uric acid stones occur when increased amounts of uric acid circulate in the bloodstream. When the uric acid content becomes very high, it can no longer remain dissolved and solid bits of uric acid settle out of the urine. A kidney stone is formed when these bits of uric acid begin to cling to each other within the kidney, slowly growing into a solid mass. About half of all patients with this type of stone also have deposits of uric acid elsewhere in their body, commonly in the joint of the big toe. This painful disorder is called gout. Other causes of uric acid stones include chemotherapy for cancer, certain bone marrow disorders where blood cells are over-produced, and an inherited disorder called Lesch-Nyhan syndrome.
  • Cystine stones. About 2% of all kidney stones fall into this category. Cystine is a type of amino acid, and people with this type of kidney stone have an abnormality in the way their bodies process amino acids in the diet.

Patients who have kidney stones usually do not have symptoms until the stones pass into the ureter. Prior to this, some people may notice blood in their urine. Once the stone is in the ureter, however, most people will experience bouts of very severe pain. The pain is crampy and spasmodic, and is referred to as "colic." The pain usually begins in the flank region, the area between the lower ribs and the hip bone. As the stone moves closer to the bladder, a patient will often feel the pain radiating along the inner thigh. In women, the pain may be felt in the vulva. In men, the pain may be felt in the testicles. Nausea, vomiting, extremely frequent and painful urination, and obvious blood in the urine are common. Fever and chills usually means that the ureter has become obstructed, allowing bacteria to become trapped in the kidney causing a kidney infection (pyelonephritis ).

Diagnosis

Diagnosing kidney stones is based on the patient's history of the very severe, distinctive pain associated with the stones. Diagnosis includes laboratory examination of a urine sample and an x-ray examination. During the passage of a stone, examination of the urine almost always reveals blood. A number of x-ray tests are used to diagnose kidney stones. A plain x ray of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder may or may not reveal the stone. A series of x rays taken after injecting iodine dye into a vein is usually a more reliable way of seeing a stone. This procedure is called an intravenous pyelogram (IVP). The dye "lights up" the urinary system as it travels. In the case of an obstruction, the dye will be stopped by the stone or will only be able to get past the stone at a slow trickle.

When a patient is passing a kidney stone, it is important that all of his or her urine is strained through a special sieve. This is to make sure that the stone is caught. The stone can then be sent to a special laboratory for analysis so that the chemical composition of the stone can be determined. After the kidney stone has been passed, other tests will be required in order to understand the underlying condition that may have caused the stone to form. Collecting urine for 24 hours, followed by careful analysis of its chemical makeup, can often determine a number of reasons for stone formation.

Treatment

A patient with a kidney stone will say that the most important aspect of treatment is adequate pain relief. Because the pain of passing a kidney stone is so severe, narcotic pain medications (like morphine) are usually required. It is believed that stones may pass more quickly if the patient is encouraged to drink large amounts of water (2-3 quarts per day). If the patient is vomiting or unable to drink because of the pain, it may be necessary to provide fluids through a vein. If symptoms and urine tests indicate the presence of infection, antibiotics will be required.

Although most kidney stones will pass on their own, some will not. Surgical removal of a stone may become necessary when a stone appears too large to pass. Surgery may also be required if the stone is causing serious obstructions, pain that cannot be treated, heavy bleeding, or infection. Several alternatives exist for removing stones. One method involves inserting a tube into the bladder and up into the ureter. A tiny basket is then passed through the tube, and an attempt is made to snare the stone and pull it out. Open surgery to remove an obstructing kidney stone was relatively common in the past, but current methods allow the stone to be crushed with shock waves (called lithotripsy ). These shock waves may be aimed at the stone from outside of the body by passing the necessary equipment through the bladder and into the ureter. The shock waves may be aimed at the stone from inside the body by placing the instrument through a tiny incision located near the stone. The stone fragments may then pass on their own or may be removed through the incision. All of these methods reduce the patient's recovery time considerably when compared to the traditional open operation.

Alternative treatment

Alternative treatments for kidney stones include the use of herbal medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, acupressure, hypnosis, or guided imagery to relieve pain. Starfruit (Averrhoa carambola ) is recommended to increase the amount of urine a patient passes and to relieve pain. Dietary changes can be made to reduce the risk of future stone formation and to facilitate the resorption of existing stones. Supplementation with magnesium, a smooth muscle relaxant, can help reduce pain and facilitate stone passing. Homeopathy and herbal medicine, both western and Chinese, recommend a number of remedies that may help prevent kidney stones.

Prognosis

A patient's prognosis depends on the underlying disorder causing the development of kidney stones. In most cases, patients with uncomplicated calcium stones will recover very well. About 60% of these patients, however, will have other kidney stones. Struvite stones are particularly dangerous because they may grow extremely large, filling the tubes within the kidney. These are called staghorn stones and will not pass out in the urine. They will require surgical removal. Uric acid stones may also become staghorn stones.

Prevention

Prevention of kidney stones depends on the type of stone and the presence of an underlying disease. In almost all cases, increasing fluid intake so that a person consistently drinks several quarts of water a day is an important preventative measure. Patients with calcium stones may benefit from taking a medication called a diuretic, which has the effect of decreasing the amount of calcium passed in the urine. Eating less meat, fish, and chicken may be helpful for patients with calcium oxalate stones. Other items in the diet that may encourage calcium oxalate stone formation include beer, black pepper, berries, broccoli, chocolate, spinach, and tea. Uric acid stones may require treatment with a medication called allopurinol. Struvite stones will require removal and the patient should receive an antibiotic. When a disease is identified as the cause of stone formation, treatment specific to that disease may lessen the likelihood of repeated stones.

Resources

ORGANIZATIONS

American Foundation for Urologic Disease. 300 West Pratt St., Baltimore, MD 21201-2463. (800) 242-2383.

National Kidney Foundation. 30 East 33rd St., New York, NY 10016. (800) 622-9010. http://www.kidney.org.

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Carson-DeWitt, Rosalyn. "Kidney Stones." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. 2006. Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Carson-DeWitt, Rosalyn. "Kidney Stones." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. 2006. Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3451600929.html

Carson-DeWitt, Rosalyn. "Kidney Stones." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. 2006. Retrieved July 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3451600929.html

Kidney Stones

Kidney Stones

What Is a Kidney Stone?

What Happens When People Have Kidney Stones?

How Are Kidney Stones Prevented?

Resources

Kidney stones are composed of crystals formed by chemicah that separate from the urine and that build up in the kidney. Most kidney stones pass out of the body without treatmenty but in severe cases surgery may be required.

KEYWORDS

for searching the Internet and other reference sources

Lithotripsy

Nephrolithiasis

Nephrology

Renal disorders

Urolithiasis

What Is a Kidney Stone?

The kidneys are bean-shaped organs about the size of a juice-box that are located on either side of the spine toward the back of the abdomen. They filter water, salts, and waste products out of the blood to make urine, and they maintain the bodys water and ion* balance. When the ratio of water and ions in the urine is out of balance, kidney stones can form.

* ions
are positively or negatively charged elements or compounds, like hydrogen, sodium, potassium, and phosphate, which are necessary for cellular metabolism.

Kidney stones can be made of various chemicals, but the most common (80 percent) are made of calcium plus oxalate (OX-al-late) or phosphate. Stones also can be formed from uric (YUR-ik) acid and from cystine (SIS-teen). Stones can be as small as a grain of sand or as big as a golf ball.

The causes of kidney stones often are unknown. However, a family history of stones, urinary tract infections, and several metabolic disorders may make a person more likely to develop kidney stones.

What Happens When People Have Kidney Stones?

Symptoms

Although the smallest kidney stones can pass out of the body in the urine without the person even knowing it, the passing of stones can cause severe pain. People have described passing a kidney stone as the worst pain they have ever experienced. The pain occurs when the stone passes from the kidney through the ureter, a tiny urine collection tube, into the bladder. In addition to sharp pain in the back and side, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, and blood in urine often occur. Large kidney stones can be life threatening if they block the urinary tract and cause the kidney to shut down.

Diagnosis

Doctors use x-rays and sonograms*, along with analyses of blood and urine to determine if a person has kidney stones.

* sonograms
(SON-o-gramz) are images or records made on a computer using sound waves passing through the body.

Treatment

Most kidney stones pass through the urinary tract on their own, with the help of lots of water and pain medication. If the stones are very large (more than one half inch in diameter), doctors can use various techniques to break the stones up inside the kidney or ureter so that the smaller pieces can pass out on their own. Ultrasonic shock waves (lithotripsy), for example, can pass through the body without harm to the place where the stone is located. They break the stone into tiny particles, which then can be passed without pain in the urine. Surgery (nephrolithotomy) is rarely necessary.

Did You Know?

Kidney stones are mentioned in the Hippocratic (hip-o-KRAT-ik) Oath taken by doctors when they begin their medical careers.

Scientists have found what they think is a kidney stone in a 7,000-year-old Egyptian mummy.

Approximately 10 percent of all people will have a kidney stone during their lifetime.

Kidney stones occur in men more often than in women.

Kidney stones usually affect people who are between 20 and 40 years old.

Doctors sometimes ask people with kidney stones to cut back on foods and drinks that contain calcium and oxalate, including some fruits and vegetables, some dairy products, coffee, chocolate, tea, and cola drinks.

How Are Kidney Stones Prevented?

Kidney stones usually affect people between the ages of 20 and 40. Approximately 10 percent of people will have one in their lifetime, and once a person has had one kidney stone, he or she has a 70 to 80 percent chance of developing another. Therefore, once a person has passed a stone, it is important to find out what kind it is. This information may help the doctor determine why the person is developing the stones, and the doctor often will ask people who have passed stones at home to bring them in for laboratory analysis. Often, changing diet, drinking more water, and taking certain kinds of medication can help reduce a persons chance of developing more stones.

See also

Gout

Kidney Disease

Resources

U.S. National Kidney and Urologie Diseases Information Clearinghouse, 3 Information Way, Bethesda, MD 20892-3580. This division of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) publishes brochures and posts fact sheets at its website.

Telephone 301-654-4415 http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/kidney/pubs

National Kidney Foundation, 30 East 33 Street, New York, NY

10016.

Telephone 800-622-9010

http://www.kidney.org

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"Kidney Stones." Complete Human Diseases and Conditions. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Kidney Stones." Complete Human Diseases and Conditions. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3497700230.html

"Kidney Stones." Complete Human Diseases and Conditions. 2008. Retrieved July 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3497700230.html

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