Kidney Stones Chattanooga TN
What are kidney stones?
A kidney stone is a solid formation of tiny mineral crystals that can develop in the kidneys or anywhere in the urinary tract. The kidneys filter the blood and remove waste products from the body through the urine. When high levels of these minerals become concentrated they can create a stone. Everyone forms crystals in their urine, but not everyone goes on to form kidney stones. When these crystals remain small, they can be excreted without pain, if the urine is diluted enough. Stones can also form in the ureter or bladder . Stones formed in the kidney that do not the block the flow of urine usually do not cause symptoms. But if they migrate into the ureters, they may cause pain and blood in the urine. Kidney stones increase the risk of chronic kidney disease.
Who is at risk?
Kidney stones are more common in men than women. Pregnant women can develop kidney stones. Most people develop kidney stones between the ages of 20-49. However, children as young as 5 can develop kidney stones. Risk factors include:
- Dehydration, low fluid intake, or strenuous exercise without adequate fluid intake, which results in an excess concentration of these minerals in the urine and form crystals.
- Certain medical conditions and prescription drugs.
- Diet, genetics and climate also influence kidney stone formation.
- In children, diet is the main cause. Intake of salty foods, low fluid intake, and sodas and other foods sweetened with high fructose corn syrup put children at risk for kidney stones.
Four Main Types of Kidney Stones
- Calcium stones- The majority of kidney stones occur in two main forms: calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate. Oxalate stones are most common and are due to an accumulation of calcium oxalate in the urine. Phosphate stones are less common and are due to autoimmune diseases and certain drugs.
- Uric Acid stones- Uric acid stones can form in acidic urine. Uric acid is a byproduct of the breakdown of animal proteins, making the urine more acidic. Gout, chemotherapy and other disorders increase the risk for this type.
- Struvite stones- These stones are made of magnesium ammonium phosphate and/or calcium carbonate, and are known as infection stones. They result from chronic and recurrent urinary tract infections due to a specific type of bacteria.
- Staghorn stones- These are stones of any type that grow large and branched, and occupy a large portion of the urinary system. Often they are a mix of struvite stones and calcium carbonate stones. They usually contain bacteria, and can destroy the kidney if untreated or cause life threatening blood infection or sepsis.
- Cysteine stones – These stones are due to an inherited disease called cystinuria.
The type of kidney stone determines the treatments available. Please see the next article on kidney stone treatment and management.
Symptoms of kidney stones
Severe abdominal pain, flank or low back pain and/or groin pain are the most distressing symptoms. Blood in the urine can be a common sign of a kidney stone. Blood may be visible or can be discovered by microscopic examination of the urine. Sometimes there may be nausea and vomiting, chills and fever associated with an obstructing stone. Stones may also cause a change in urination or testicular pain in men.
The inability to urinate or frequent and urgent urination can be due to the stone passing from the ureters into the bladder. Another danger is when the kidney is blocked by a stone, causing back up of urine in the blood, posing potential damage to kidney tissues and infection.
How are they diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects kidney stones, he will order blood and urine tests, ultrasound, abdominal x-rays and likely a CT scan. He will also ask questions about your medical history including diet, fluid intake, family history and lifestyle. Certain medical conditions may put you at risk. And you will receive a physical exam.
The highly specialized urologists at UT Urology are widely respected among the U.S. urology community and regional leaders in providing state of the art diagnosis and treatment of prostate and urinary tract diseases. We are top rated urologists in the Chattanooga, Tennessee, Alabama and Northern Georgia area. Contact us with your concerns. We will listen, answer your questions, explain your condition and provide stellar services to address your specific needs.