Kidney stones affect one in every 10 people in their lifetime, according to the division head of the Department of Urology at Sinai Hospital, Dr. Mark Redwood. Passing a kidney stone has been compared to childbirth, because the pain is so intense, but with modern treatment the pain can be reduced significantly.
What Is A Kidney Stone?
Kidney stones consist of byproducts and materials from the normal function of the kidneys. The materials will solidify over time and form what is called a stone, which can take many different shapes and sizes, depending on the length of time it takes for the stones to form. It can take months even years for the stone to form and 85 percent of the stones are calcium in composition. The remainder being uric acid, a result of rare metabolic diseases and the breakdown of protein in the body. The crystals that form in tissues during a gout attack are similar to the composition of uric acid stones.
Kidney Stones Risk Factors
Dehydration is the most common risk factor for kidney stones. The solution for dehydration is water and any medical professional will warn again consuming large quantities of fruit punches and sugar sweetened beverages.
Cold weather is another risk factor, even though we don’t sweat as much as if it were hot. Many people tend to only consume fluids during meals, which means reduced fluid intake. Even though more fluid is consumed in the summer, it will pass out of the body through the kidneys and pores. Human behavior is also another risk factor. For example, people that do not enjoy the taste of water, will simply refuse to drink it.
Metabolic conditions, such as disease of the parathyroid gland can also be contributed to kidney stones. The parathyroid glad regulates calcium balance in the body. Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease, can also increase the risk of kidney stones. The small colon does not manage calcium from dietary sources, in Crohn’s disease. The formation of kidney stones can occur during prolonged hospitalization, because patients are sedentary during these stays. This can lead to reabsorption of calcium and bone similar to what occurs in astronauts after spending extended periods of time in space.
Medications that deplete the body’s fluid and interfere with the kidney’s ability to process electrolytes and calcium can contribute to dehydration and/or kidney stones.
Contrary to believe, kidney stones are not a result of consuming too many sodas and antacids, because most of the calcium consumed is removed from the body in the stool.
Kidney Stone Treatment
The treatment will depend on the size and location of the kidney stones. Smaller kidney stones pass through the body without treatment. Urologists normally divide the urinary system into two different seconds, the upper third of the ureter and kidney and lower ureter and bladder.
Lithotripsy, a technology that utilizes ultrasound energy to fragment the stones, works extremely well for stones in the kidney less than 1.5 centimeters. The ultrasound energy will fragment the stones into sand, so the patient can comfortably pass the pieces naturally in the urine.
If a kidney stone blocks the kidney or ureter, a stent, a sterile flexible tube, will be extended from the kidney down the ureter to the bladder. The tube will create a gateway to allow the urine to bypass the stone.
Percutaneous neprholithotomy or serial shock wave lithotripsy can effectively be utilized to treat larger stones. During this treatment, a tube is placed through the back into the kidney to access the stone. Ultrasonic energy is utilized to fragment the stone, while a vacuum suctions out the fragments. This is an invasive treatment, but is very effective in removing a portion or all of the kidney stones.
Kidney stones in the upper ureter can be fragmented or removed through an ureteroscope, which is passed through the bladder to the ureter to the stone. A laser will be utilized to fragment the stone, if it is too large to be removed as a whole.
Stones in the lower ureter are treated in the same manner as those in the upper ureter. However, instead of utilizing a laser, which could penetrate the bones of the pelvis, the urologist will rely on shock wave lithotripsy to fragment the stone.
Stones in the bladder are treated through the urethra with a laser fiber.