The basic function of the kidneys is to regulate levels of fluids, salts, minerals, and other substances. They help regulate electrolyte levels that are important for the body to function and remove waste and excess fluids from the body in the form of urine. Sometimes the salts, minerals or other chemicals found in the blood start to crystallise in the urine and may form what we call kidney stones.
What Are They?
Medically referred to as “renal calculi“, are hard, rock-like masses made of crystals. They can be of varying sizes and shapes and are formed within the kidney or urinary tract. In Australia, kidney stones send 4-8% of the Australian population to the emergency room each year.
How Are They Formed?
When the environment in urine becomes too acidic, it can lead to the formation of kidney stones. This can happen when:
- there is not enough liquid in the urine to dilute waste chemicals such as phosphorous, oxalate, uric acid, and calcium
- the concentration of these waste chemicals becomes too high in the urine
Here are some factors that are known to increase the risk:
- gender (kidney stones are common among males than females)
- unhealthy diet (diet high in protein, sodium and/or sugar)
- certain medications such as Aspirin, Topiramate
- certain medical conditions (such as gout, inflammatory bowel disease, gastric bypass surgery, chronic diarrhea
- long-term use of calcium and Vitamin D supplements
How to Treat Kidney Stones
The treatment for kidney stones depends on a number of factors such as:
- the size of the stone
- the placement of the stone
- the chemical composition of the stone
- the intensity of pain
- the intensity of complication (in the urinary tract)
Your doctor may advise several tests such as X-ray, CT scan, blood test, and urine test before he/she can choose the right treatment option for you. If the kidney stones are smaller in size, drinking plenty of water accompanied with some pain medications is all you need to pass these stones through your urine. However, larger kidney stones may need to be broken down into smaller pieces before they can be removed from the body. For this purpose the doctors may advice:
- open surgery (percutaneous nephrolithotomy)
Southbank Medical Centre