Kidney stones, small hard mineral deposits, form inside the kidneys, crucial components of our urinary system. When these stones shift into the ureter, they're labelled as ureteric stones.

Causes of Kidney Stones

Understanding the genesis of kidney stones is pivotal. Comprehensive stone analysis coupled with urine laboratory tests can pinpoint the exact type and underlying causes, ensuring targeted treatment.

Risk Factors

The probability of kidney stone formation hinges on several factors, some modifiable, others not:

Modifiable Risk Factors:

  1. Urinary Characteristics:
    • Specific urine biochemical abnormalities can elevate stone formation risks, like decreased urine volume, increased urine calcium or uric acid levels, and certain urine pH levels.
    • Specific diets or medical conditions can influence urine substance levels or pH.
  2. Dietary Influences:
    • Calcium stone risk is augmented by low fluid, calcium, and potassium intake but promoted by excessive oxalate, sodium, or vitamin C.
    • Consuming abundant animal protein might elevate uric acid stone risk.
  3. Medications:
    • Drugs such as topiramate, acetazolamide, and indinavir can heighten stone formation risks.

Non-Modifiable Risk Factors:

  1. Medical Conditions:
    • Gout, hyperparathyroidism, diabetes mellitus, and other conditions can make one susceptible.
  2. Genetic Predisposition:
    • A family history of kidney stones can indicate higher vulnerability.

Potential Complications

Untreated kidney stones can lead to:

  • Severe pain from urinary tract blockage.
  • Progressive kidney deterioration and potential failure on the affected side of the kidney.
  • Infection occurs when the urinary tract is blocked by kidney stones. If the infection enters the bloodstream, it can lead to sepsis and potentially result in death.

Recognising Symptoms

Be alert to:

  • Lateral or back pain.
  • Blood in the urine.
  • Nausea, vomiting, fever, or chills.
  • Increased urination frequency or urgency.
  • Pain during urination.

Treatment Options for Kidney Stones

Managing the Pain

  • Utilise pain medication.
  • Ensure adequate hydration, either through oral intake or IV fluids.

Medical Therapy

This involves specific drugs that can help dissolve the kidney stones or prevent them from forming.

Surgical Therapy

In situations where the stone is too large to pass or is causing significant complications, surgical removal or procedures to break down the stone might be necessary.

Self-Care & Preventing Recurrence

To stave off future kidney stones, consider the following:

  1. Adhere to prescribed medications. Avoid altering dosages without consulting your doctor.
  2. Stay hydrated, aiming for at least 2.5 litres daily.
  3. Refrain from prolonged urine retention.
  4. Maintain a healthy weight and BMI.
  5. Modify diet:
    • Limit oxalate-rich foods.
    • For those prone to uric acid stones, minimise high-purine foods like certain meats and nuts.
    • If susceptible to calcium stones, curtail sodium-rich foods.
    • Consult your doctor before starting any supplements, especially vitamin C, D, or calcium.
  6. Regularly check urine appearance. Seek medical advice if cloudy, reddish, or if stones are observed.
  7. Schedule and attend all follow-up appointments.

Different Types of Kidney Stones

There's diversity in kidney stone composition:

  1. Calcium Stones:
    • Formed when urine's calcium combines with oxalate or phosphate. Various factors and conditions contribute to their formation, such as high vitamin C intake, gout, or obesity.
  2. Struvite Stones:
    • Often linked to chronic urinary tract infections. These stones can resemble stag horns in X-rays if sufficiently large.
  3. Uric Acid Stones:
    • Typically resulting from purine-rich foods. They're often undetectable in standard X-rays.
  4. Cystine Stones:
    • Arise due to the body's inefficiency in absorbing cystine, leading to its excessive excretion in urine.