Kidney stones are one of the most common and painful disorders affecting the urinary tract. They are caused when certain minerals, such as calcium and oxalate, become concentrated in the urine and form small, hard crystals. As these crystals accumulate in the kidney they can block the flow of urine and cause pain or even permanent damage to the kidney.
Certain medical conditions can increase a person’s risk of developing kidney stones. Dehydration is a major risk factor since it increases the concentration of minerals in the urine. A diet high in protein, sodium, sugar and refined carbohydrates can also lead to kidney stones because these substances make it easier for crystals to form. Some medical conditions that put people at higher risk include gout, hyperparathyroidism, chronic diarrhea and certain intestinal disorders. People who have already had kidney stones may be more likely to get them again due to inherited genetic traits.
Treatment for kidney stones depends on their size and location. Smaller stones can pass out of the body with fluids and over-the-counter medications. Larger stones may need to be surgically removed or broken up with ultrasound shockwaves known as lithotripsy. In some cases, a stent may be placed in the ureter to help open up a blocked pathway and allow for easier passage of larger stones out of the body.
Regardless of treatment option chosen, it is important to take measures to reduce one’s risk of getting another kidney stone by staying well hydrated, maintaining a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. Doing so can help lower one’s chances of experiencing another episode of this painful condition.