Dr Farooq Asghar (Consultant Urologist).
Kidney stone disease is a worldwide common problem. Amongst other countries it is most prevalent in Pakistan where stone patients represent the bulk of all urological patients. One in every twenty people develops kidney stones in some point in their life.
Silent and not yet discovered stones of the upper urinary tract are potentially dangerous, since in due course they may cause infection, obstruction and renal damage.
What is a kidney stone?
A kidney stone is a hard crystalline mineral material formed within the kidney or urinary tract. Kidney stones are a common cause of blood in the urine and often severe pain in the abdomen or groin. One in every 20 people develops a kidney stone at some point in their life. Kidney stones typically leave the body by passage in the urine stream and many stones are formed and passed without causing symptoms. Stones may be clinically silent for a long time. However, when they grow beyond a size of spontaneous clearance through the urinary tract, they may cause infection, obstruction or permanent kidney damage. There it would be helpful to find stones in early stages of their growth.
What is the role of the kidney?
The kidney acts as a filter for blood, making urine and removing waste product from the body. It also helps regulate electrolytes levels that are important for body function.
How are kidney stones detected?
- Kidney stones are detected through a renal ultrasound.
- Blood tests to check calcium, phosphorus, uric acid, and electrolyte levels
- Kidney function tests
- Urinalysis to see crystals and look for red blood cells in urine.
- Examination of the stone to determine the type.
How are kidney stones formed?
Kidney stones form when there is a decrease in urine volume or an excess of stone forming substances in the urine. The most common type of kidney stone contains calcium in combination with either oxalate or phosphate. Other chemical compounds that can form stones in the urinary tract include uric acid and the amino acid cystine.
What are the symptoms of kidney stones?
The main kidney stone symptoms are:
- Pain in the genitals.
- A mixture of blood in the urine.
- Frequent urge for urination.
- Stone discharges.
What is the treatment needed?
Most treatments are much less invasive than in the past. Antibiotics are usually given to treat any bacteria, and potassium citrate to dissolve the stones. Lithotripsy is used to remove stones slightly smaller than an inch that are located in the kidney or urethra.
Kidney stones are painful but most of the time can be removed from the body without causing lasting damage. Kidney stones often come back. This occurs more often if the cause is not found and treated.