In many cases there is no definitive, single cause of kidney stones; however there are a number of risk factors that can contribute to the increased risk of developing them. They form when the urine in the body contains a greater amount of crystal-forming substances than can be reasonably dilated. These include: oxalate, uric acid and calcium, which are typically diluted by the fluid in the urine. The urine may also lack substances required to prevent crystals from binding to one another, which creates the ideal environment for these kidney stones to appear.
Their cause is most often determined by the type of stone. There are several different types of stones including calcium stones, uric acid stones, struvite stones, cystine stones and other types of rare kidney stones. Calcium stones are the most common kidney stones and are formed by calcium oxalate. Struvite stones form when an infection occurs in the urinary tract. Uric acid stones appear when the patient does not drink enough fluids. Cystine stones are found in individuals with a hereditary disorder causing the kidneys to produce too much Cystinuria, a type of amino acid.
While most kidney stones are capable of passing with only some pain and discomfort, others can be more serious. Chronic kidney stones and some types of kidney stones can be more harmful or may indicate a more serious problem that needs to be investigated. The pain associated with kidney stones can be extremely intense, and fever, blood in the urine and nausea or vomiting are signs that something serious is occurring. People experiencing kidney stones should seek medical attention to rule out other serious issues and to acquire pain medication and other treatment options to ease the problem.
Kidney stones can form without any symptoms while still moving around in the kidneys. However, once the kidney stone moves into the ureter, which connects the bladder and kidney to one another, certain signs and symptoms will avail themselves. These symptoms can include severe pain in the back and side, pain spreading to the groin and lower abdomen, pain which fluctuates in intensity and comes on in waves, brown or pink urine, cloudy or smelly urine, pain upon urination, nausea or vomiting, urinating more frequently than usual, persistent urge to use the restroom, fever and chills. The pain a kidney stone causes may change, shifting to different locations or changing intensity as the stone moves along the urinary tract.
For small kidney stones showing only minimal symptoms, drinking plenty of water and taking pain relievers will generally be enough, but doctors may prescribe a medication to help pass the kidney stone more easily. Larger kidney stones showing more serious symptoms may be treated in different ways such as with sound waves to break the stones up, surgery to remove impassable stones or removing stones with a scope or what is known as parathyroid gland surgery, which will help to prevent certain types of calcium stones from recurring.