Renal lithiasis is the presence of kidney stones somewhere in the urinary tract. These are small stones formed by different substances, such as calcium oxalate, uric acid, struvite, cystine, and calcium phosphate. 80% of the stones are composed of calcium.
Kidney stones can be formed and not cause any signs (asymptomatic lithiasis) or manifest by different forms, being the most frequent and typical: the renal colic.
What Are The Signs of Having Kidney Stones?
A person may find out that one has kidney stones in different ways:
- Because One Has a Renal Colic: This is the most frequent presentation of renal lithiasis. Colic is a pain of onset sharp, intense, which starts at the bottom of the back (lumbar area) and radiates to the genitals. It occurs because the stone obstructs the urinary tract and stretches it. The pain may be accompanied by anxiety and restlessness and it is common that the person does not find a mode or a position to calm it down. Sometimes, there is also nausea, vomiting, sweating, fever, pain urinating, blood in the urine or desire to go frequently to the bathroom, although a little amount of urine is eliminated. All these are signs of irritation of the urinary tract.
- Because the Patient Urinates with Blood: The kidney stone when moving inside of the urinary tract hurts the mucosa (the wall) and can cause the individual to urinate with blood (a term known as hematuria).
- Because the Patient Suffers Frequent Urinary Infections or That Does Not finish Healing: the presence of kidney stones may increase the risk of having urinary infections and, in turn, certain urinary infections predispose to the formation of a particular type of stones.
- By An Ultrasound Finding: Nowadays, it is very common for a doctor to request an abdominal ultrasound, for example, because the patient has a discomfort in the area of the liver, and the sonographer reports that detects one or several kidney stones.
- To Understand How kidney Stones are Formed, it is necessary to go over a bit of chemistry: when you put a teaspoon of sugar (solute) in a glass full of water (solvent), the sugar is diluted, mixed with water and forms a sweet liquid (solution). However, if we continue to put sugar in the glass, we reach a point where the sugar no longer dissolves and falls to the bottom of the glass, a process known as precipitation or crystal formation. In this case, it is said that the solution is oversaturated.
Normally, urine, unlike water, can keep a large number of substances in solution. This means that if we put the same amount of these substances in the water, these would precipitate and form crystals unfailingly. However, although urine contains elements that prevent precipitation and crystallization of solutes, in some people, these substances also end up precipitating and forming kidney stones.
There are different hypotheses to explain how they form kidney stones. It is thought that this can happen when urinating:
- It has too many solutes.
- It is very acidic or very alkaline (since both situations favor precipitation).
- It lacks sufficient substances that prevent the precipitation of solutes (these substances are called inhibitors).
- It has different substances that join together and precipitate more easily. It is also believed that kidney stones can be formed, because there are alterations in the characteristics of the urinary tract, or difficulties in the normal circulation of urine. It is very probable that the formation of stones does not result from the presence of only one of these situations, but from the participation to a greater or lesser extent, of several of them.
As it was aforementioned, kidney stones might provoke a clinical condition known as renal colic, which is very painful; the patient might also experience recurrent urinary infections or urinate with blood. However, in a minority of cases, kidney stones do not cause any symptom and they might be evidenced in an ultrasound.
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