Kidney stones are pieces of solid material that form as a response to high levels of certain substances found in the urine. These substances usually do not cause problems at lower levels.
The stones could end up in any of two places: they could either stay in the kidney or descend down the urinary tract. Their size varies, which changes their effect. If the stone is small it can exit on its own, causing a little bit of pain, or it could even be painless. If we’re talking about a much bigger stone, it could stay stuck in the urinary tract, which could begin to obstruct urine flow. This undoubtedly causes heavy bleeding and is very painful.
What causes stones to form?
The appearance of these stones in the kidneys is caused primarily by certain high levels of calcium oxalate and phosphorus in the urine. Certain foods can cause kidney stones in some people.
How do I know if I’m at higher risk of developing stones?
You could run a higher risk of kidney stones if you present any of these factors:
- 1. If you have digestive problems.
- 2. If you have repeated or frequent urinary tract infections.
- 3. If your urinary tract is blocked.
- 4. If you suffer from some sort of condition that changes substance levels in the urine.
- 5. Family history of having problems with stones.
- 6. Another factor that could affect you in this case is drinking little liquid or taking certain medications that aren’t beneficial for the kidneys.
Knowing the symptoms…
You could realize if you might possibly have kidney stones or not, if you have any of the following symptoms:
- 1. Blood in urine.
- 2. You feel a sharp and intolerable pain in the lower area of your abdomen (between your chest and hips) or in the back.
- 3. Painful urination.
*Of course, if this is a big stone, you will experience strong pain, possibly nausea and vomiting that accompany the pain. If you have a small stone it might pass without problems, and you might not present any symptoms.
When do I know it is urgent and that I should see a doctor?
(photo: Caroline/ Flick.com)
If you have any of these symptoms, it is important that you see a doctor soon:
- Reiterative vomiting
- Blood in urine
- Fever and chills
- Pain in the lower part of your abdomen or back, that is frequent and doesn’t want to disappear
- Urine that looks or smells bad, or looks cloudy
- Strong pain during urination
How can I prevent kidney stones?
- *Get to know what types of kidney stones there are so that if you ever get one, you can fight it appropriately. Consume foods that do not contain the substance that is affecting your kidneys.
- *Control your weight. People with a higher body mass and that have bigger waists usually have a higher risk when it comes to developing these stones.
- Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. This is very important, and drink even more so if you are used to exercising or if the climate is really warm. On this point, drinking orange juice could be extremely effective because it contains citrate, which minimizes the grades at which calcium acid and oxalate acid crystallizes to form stones.
- *Reduce your consumption of animal proteins, like fish, eggs and meat. You can have a dose of 6 ounces per day. What happens with these foods is that they contain natural substances that decompose or metabolize into uric acid (like purines). In this case, also avoid sardines and liver, and substitute some proteins for others, like nuts and legumes for example.
- *Minimize your sodium (salt) consumption. Do not completely eliminate it, but whenever possible, try to use the least amount possible.
- *Consume foods that have a good amount of potassium, like vegetables (squash, potatoes and tomatoes) and fruit (cantaloupe, banana, apricot).
- *Be very careful with taking multivitamin supplements that contain calcium or oxalates.
- Fat. Consume dairy products that are low in fat.
- Age. Generally, people older than 40 years of age are more prone to suffering from kidney stones.
- *History. Ask your family about the existence or appearance of kidney stones, if perhaps they have had them or if they’ve never had to deal with them.
- *Professional help. Visit a urologist at least once a year.
*NOTE: The advancement of kidney stones depends on you, whether it decreases in size or never even happens. However, if your symptoms are not very good at all, don’t forget to ask a doctor for help. If you’re not careful, the situation could get worse. Start by reviewing your diet; do not forget this step.