What Causes Kidney Stones?

· October 25, 2014

Renal calculi, kidney stones, or Nephrolithiasis refer to a hard mass that is formed by crystals present in urine.  Natural compounds and chemicals present in urine can often times prevent their formation.

However, this condition can still develop, which is why you must know the symptoms, effects, causes, and possible treatments for eliminating them.  Also, if they aren’t treated in time, they could cause irreversible damage and possible recurrence.

Incidentally, there are different types of calculi.  That’s why an analysis needs to be performed on them in order to be able to eradicate them and to build a healthy life so they don’t come back.

Causes of kidney stones

Around 5% of women and 10% of men suffer from kidney stones over the course of their life, in the United States.  This painful illness represents a loss of $2 billion a year, and form when urine contains an amount of specific substances in it.  Small crystals then form, which convert into calculi.  It can takes weeks of months to acquire consistency and to form.

People that don’t drink enough liquids also have a higher risks of suffering from them.  However, they are more likely to develop if you produce less than one liter of urine a day, which is equivalent to roughly one quarter gallon.

Kidney stones can be eliminated from the body, however, without causing permanent effects.  They are painful and have the ability to come back if you don’t find and establish treatment.  If a long time goes by between the formation of the stones and treatment, it could cause consequences in the kidney, along with other adverse effects.

Doctor Glenn Preminger, director of the Comprehensive Kidney Stone Center at Duke, and professor of urology surgery at the University of Duke, stated that: “There is no doubt that kidney stones are related to obesity”.  The doctor also participated as co-author in the Journal of Urology for similar findings in a study.


Kidney pain


It is quite common for kidney stones to not present symptoms during their formation.  They can even move down the ducts called ureters, which are then transported to the bladder by the urine.  That’s how, when they show up, the stones could block and threaten the passage of urine from the kidneys.

This illness can bring a lot of diverse symptoms.  The primary is intestinal pain that begins sporadically and suddenly, ending in just the same way.  So there are two types of pain that one can experience.  The first contracts in one side of the back or in the abdominal region.  The second type of pain could possibly extend to the testicles (testicular pain) or to the groin (groin pain).

Other symptoms could be:


This condition could cause possible complications that, if left untreated and view indifferently, could cause more severe complications because of how the calculi block urine flow.  These could be, among others, kidney damage and recurrent infections.

Possible complications:

  • Urinary tract infection
  • Acute unilateral obstructive uropathy and ureter whitening.
  • Kidney damage and healing problems.
  • Stone recurrence.
  • Loss or decrease of function in the damaged kidney.

Kidney stones

You should keep in mind that there are different types of stones, in order to identify them and know proper treatment:

  • Cystine kidney stones: these could form in people with cystinuria disorder, which is hereditary and both men and women can suffer from it.
  • Calcium kidney stones: these are the most common and men between the ages of 20 and 30 are more likely to suffer from them.  They form when calcium is combined with different substances like phosphate, crbonate or oxalate (most common substances).  This last substance is found in several foods like spinach of vitamin C supplements.  Also, other small intestine illnesses increase the appearance of kidney stones.
  • Uric acid stones: these are more common in men than in women and can happen with chemotherapy or gout.
  • Struvite stones: these reside in women that have urinary tract infections, which could grow to a size capable of cutting off the bladder, the kidney, and the ureters.

Other substances could form kidney stones, like medications such as indinavir, aciclovir, and triamterene.


Kidney stone treatment could begin with a special diet. After the doctor confirms which  type of stone you h ave and does different tests to determine this, you could begin a more specific diet, necessary for diminishing and removing them.  A nutritionist or dietitian can give you the new menu, even though it’s likely that any diet would change the amount of potassium, salt, liquid, protein, oxalate and calcium that you consume.

One way of avoiding them and dissolving them is to drink between 6 and 8 glasses of water a day.  The pain, however, could be quite extreme, potentially requiring narcotic analgesics.  Also, if this pain is unbearable, the individual should be hospitalized with intravenous fluids.

Along with this, specific treatment depends on the type of stone formed, and the symptoms produced.  If they are small, the stones tend to leave on their own and, if they leave the body, you must save the urine so as to analyze the stone and prevent future inconveniences.

Depending on the type of stone, there are a few medications that the doctor can give you to prevent their formation, or to stimulate their decomposition by eliminating the material causing them.  Some of the following medications are a few possibilities:

  • Diuretics (Thiazide diuretics)
  • Diuretics
  • Antibiotics effective on struvite stones
  • Sodium citrate and sodium bicarbonate.
  • Allopurinol for treating uric acid stones.
  • Phosphate solutions

If surgery is necessary, the stone or symptom must have the following characteristics:

  • The stone must be big enough to exit on its own.
  • The stone must be causing a barrier for urine flow while at the same time causing kidney pain or infections.
  • The stone must be continuously growing.
  • The pain is extreme and unbearable

So, worry regarding treatment is generally less worrisome now, because they have stopped being so invasive.  A lot of stones don’t produce any complications, or their complications are not serious.

  • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy: used with very large stones that are close to the kidney, or in it.  If this happens, the stone is removed by a probe called a endoscope, which enter the kidney through a small surgical incision.
  • Ureteroscopy: could be administered if stones are in the lower urinary tracts.
  • Extracorporeal lithotripsy: which uses shock waves to supress stones that are smaller than half an inch.  They must be in the ureter or near the kidney in order to use this method.  By using shock waves or sound waves, the stones are broken up, which can then be eliminated by the urine.
  • Additionally, open surgery or nephrolithotomy could be necessary in come cases.  However, this is only done if other methods cannot be used, or are not functional.

Advice for preventing kidney stones

If you keep in mind this specific advice, like a simple change in diet, you could prevent kidney stones.  Also, if you already suffer from them, you must take precautions to avoid future complications or recurrences.

  • Kidney stones could be hereditary.  Also, if you have had them previously, drinking a lot of liquids is recommended.  As previously mentioned, between 6 to 8 glases of water a day are necessary for the body to produce enough urine.  Although some people suggest drinking 12, 8 oz. glasses of water a day.
  • In regards to the liquids you should try to consume, do not forget that some liquids have the ability to dehydrate you even more quickly.  That’s why people avoid drinking them.  For example: beverages that contain caffeine or alcohol.
  • You must always keep in mind what type of stone is present, in order to take the indicated medications.  There are some that, when taken, have the ability to diminish certain compounds produced by kidney stones in the urine, or to reduce the likelihood that they form in the urine.
  • You could make certain dietary changes to avoid consuming foods that cause kidney stones and that could cause recurrences if you have already had them.  That’s why it is recommended to stop eating dairy products like cheese and milk.
  • If you have oxalate stones, you must stop drinking sodas, eating peanuts and chocolate.
  • If you have cystine stones, you should reduce your fish consumption.
  • For people that suffer from uric acid stones, eating read meat, anchovies, and chicken is not a good idea.