Kidney stones are urinary disorders that occur when there is an excess crystal-forming substances such as salt / chemicals in the urine. These stones can restrict the flow of urine, and lead to serious complications including infection, kidney damage or even kidney failure. Kidney stones consist of various types of chemicals including calcium, phosphate and oxalate.
Kidney stones affect men more than women between the age of 20 and 40. Different types of kidney stones are composed of different chemicals including:
- Calcium oxalate stones or calcium phosphate stones (the most common type)
- Cystine stones
- Struvite stones
- Uric acid stones
Kidney stones occur when:
- the urine lacks, or has low levels of substances that usually inhibit minerals from sticking together, known as “crystallising".
- the urine contains more minerals (such as calcium, oxalate, phosphate, uric acid or cysteine) than it can dilute.
- there are other conditions such as cystic kidney diseases, urinary tract infections, and some metabolic disorders.
In addition, various risk factors may increase chances of developing kidney stones:
- Dietary factors include low intake of fluid and high intake of salts, oxalate-rich foods (e.g. peanuts, almonds, strawberries, tea and coffee), and purine-rich foods (e.g. organ meats, shellfish)
- Environmental factors such as living in a hot climate where you sweat excessively and have low fluid intake, this may leads to reduced urine volume and increased mineral level in urine.
- Genetic factors including a family history of kidney stones increase the chance of stone formation.
The symptoms of kidney stones include:
- Blood in urine
- Difficulty urinating if stone is too large
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain when passing urine
- Severe pain on the back and flanks of the abdomen, radiating towards the front and groin area
Various treatment options are available. Doctor will assess the patient’s condition and suggest the most appropriate treatment according to the size and type of kidney stones.
If the kidney stones are small:
- No treatment is required. With plenty of water, the stones may eventually pass out in the urine
- Pain killers may be prescribed to alleviate pain during the passing of the stones
If your kidney stones are large, the following treatment options are available:
- Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) - a non-invasive procedure where shock waves are sent into the body to break down the kidney stones into smaller pieces, which then pass out in the urine over the next few days.
- Medication - prescribed to help break down the stones. However, this option depends on the type of kidney stones patients have.
- Percutaneous Nephrolithotripsy (PCNL) - A surgery that involves making a small incision in patient’s back to allow a special instrument (nephroscope) to be inserted into the kidney to locate and remove the stones.
- Uretero-Renoscopy (URS) - A surgery where an endoscope is inserted through the urethra, into the bladder and to the kidney to where the stone is positioned. The stones are then broken down and removed.