Kidney stones are hard crystal deposits of minerals and salts on the inner linings of the kidneys. These mineral and salt crystals separate from the urine before they are excreted from the body. Normally, urine contains chemicals that are capable of diluting these minerals and salts to prevent them from crystallizing (forming into crystals). Unfortunately, these chemicals either fail to work in others or there are too many minerals and salts to dilute, thus, there are still people who develop stones.
As described above, kidney stones may form when the chemicals that are supposed to dilute certain components of urine fail to work. When these urine components remain undiluted, they may crystallize and develop into kidney stones. Kidney stones may also form when the urine contains more minerals and salts than the fluid that dilutes them. This means that the urine is highly concentrated which usually leads to the crystallization of these minerals and stones.
Doctors do not exactly know what causes kidney stones. However, here are some factors that can increase the risk of having them.
Diet. Certain kinds of food may cause kidney stone formation. Food rich in oxalates like beer, chocolate, coffee, eggplant and beans among others, is an example. Oxalates are salts that form kidney stones when they combine with calcium. Food rich in sodium may also lead to stone formation as well as those that are rich in protein.
Family health history. If a parent has developed kidney stones due to high levels of calcium in the urine, it is possible that his or her kids will also experience the same. Children whose parents have high levels of calcium in the urine are prone to also having high levels of calcium in their own urine. They are said to be predisposed to this condition. This makes their chances of forming kidney stones high.
Dehydration. People living in areas with a hot climate are prone to dehydration. When a person gets dehydrated, the concentration of his or her urine becomes high. This makes it easier for minerals and slats to bond together are form crystals.
Medications. Medicines that are high in calcium if used excessively can also lead to stone building. Examples of these are those used as antacids. Medicines and supplements that have diuretic effects can also give the same effect to the body.
There are several types of kidney stones.
- The most common type is Calcium Stones –commonly occurring as calcium oxalates. It was mentioned above that when oxalates combine with calcium, stones are formed.
- Struvite Stones are more common in women than in men. They are usually after-effects of urinary tract infections. Urinary tract infection is more common in women than in men that’s why struvite stone is more common in them as well.
- Uric Acid Stones, as the name implies, are formed from uric acids. People who eat high-protein diets are more prone to having this type of kidney stone.
- Cystine Stones are rare. They form in people whose kidneys excrete excessive amounts of a certain type of amino acid called cystine. This condition is called cytinuria and it is hereditary.
Kidney stones usually remain undetected until they are already passing through the ureter. Thus, it is important to have regular checkups with your doctor especially if you have had stones in the past already or there is someone in your family who has had them.