Kidney stones are little deposits of minerals and salts that appear on the kidney’s inner surfaces. They can form from substances like calcium, struvite, uric acid, and cystine, among others. When there’s a high concentration of these elements or compounds in a person’s urine, the result is the formation of crystals that can either be as minuscule as a grain of sand or large enough to block the person’s ureteral area.
Indeed, some kidney stones are small enough to be passed in the urine without the person even feeling them. However, some can incite symptoms such as severe pain in the lower body, bloody urine, nausea, vomiting, and fever.
For very large stones that can’t exit the ureteral area on their own, treatments like extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy (which will shatter a stone into smaller fragments), percutaneous nephrolithotomy (which will remove the stone through an incision on the skin in the back using a nephroscope), or ureteroscopic stone removal (which will remove the stone using a small instrument inserted into the urethra) may be required.
Like with many other medical conditions that can threaten a person’s long-term health, two principles apply to kidney stones. The first is that the prevention of kidney stones is always better than a cure for them. Second, the earlier one acts to address a serious case of kidney stones, the better their odds will be against further health complications like kidney infections.
It’s good to understand the most common causes of kidney stones and to make enough changes to your lifestyle to prevent them from happening. Below are the six most common factors that contribute to the development of kidney stones, plus what you can do about them:
Family History -The fact of the matter is, some people are naturally more predisposed to having kidney stones than the rest of the population if they have a family history of the condition. If you’ve got a parent, grandparent, or sibling who is prone to kidney stones, consider yourself at greater risk of getting them, too. Take extra precautions around any bladder problems you develop, and be as proactive as you can be about living a healthy lifestyle to mitigate your hereditary risks.
Not Drinking Enough Water – One of the most common culprits is dehydration. Not drinking enough water can make it difficult for your body to dilute minerals and other causative agents, therefore increasing the chances of these substances turning into kidney stones. You should make it a goal to drink at least 10 cups of water a day and to decrease your consumption of high-sugar, high-caffeine drinks like soda and coffee. Healthy levels of hydration manifest in clear or pale yellow urine, while dark urine may signify dehydration and increased chances of developing kidney stones.
Eating Too Much Sweet, Salty, or Fatty Food – A diet that’s high in sodium, protein, and monosaccharides like fructose may also induce the formation of kidney stones. Eating salty food very often can cause too much salt to pass through your urine, therefore obstructing the reabsorption of calcium and causing calcium stones to form. Fatty foods, on the other hand, can raise the calcium oxalate and uric acid levels in your body and induce the formation of either calcium oxalate or uric acid stones. High levels of sugar in your body also make your urine acidic, which, in turn, makes you susceptible to stones. You don’t necessarily have to remove salt, fat, or sugar from your diet, but take these in moderation if you don’t want to suffer from kidney stones and their complications.
Not Exercising Enough – Obesity is a significant risk factor. The opposite also holds true — being at a healthy weight, and pairing sufficient exercise with a nutritious diet, can hold kidney stones at bay. On top of reducing your intake of junk food, fatty foods, and sugary foods and drinks, make it a point to get enough exercise during the week.
Having a Digestive Condition or Recovering from Surgery – You will also want to be on high alert if you already have a digestive condition like inflammatory bowel disease or if you’re recovering from a procedure like gastric bypass surgery. In both cases, your body’s ability to absorb water and calcium may be inhibited and therefore make you more prone to developing stones in your urine. Speak to your doctor about how you can address your digestive problems so that they don’t lead to kidney stones and other health problems.
Taking Too Many Supplements or Medications – Lastly, certain medications and supplements can induce the formation of kidney stones if they are taken in excess. Some examples of these are dietary supplements, antacids, laxatives, and antidepressants, to name a few. Never take more than the prescribed dosage of these medications and, if you have either incurred a kidney stone or think you are at risk of developing them due to these medicines, seek the advice of your doctor.
Please note that you don’t have to experience just one of the items above to be at risk for kidney stones. If several of these factors occur together, your likelihood of suffering from painful and inconvenient kidney stones goes up all the more.
Do your best to steer clear of kidney stones by taking the above-mentioned tips into consideration. If you experience serious symptoms that can be attributed to them, like blood in your urine or pain coupled with fever and chills, seek medical attention right away.
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