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The Kidney Stone WebSite by Roger Baxter
An Educational Resource for Sufferers with Kidney Stones
by Roger Baxter
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Causes of Kidney Stones
There are many potential causes of kidney stone formation. In general they are the result of a super concentration of chemicals in the urine that results in crystals being formed. This may be brought on by one or more of the following:

  • a family genetic predisposition to form stones;
  • an excess of calcium or certain other minerals in the diet (sometimes due to local geographic water or soil conditions);
  • intake of excess uric acid, certain medications, Vitamin C, or Vitamin D;
  • a diet of fruits and vegetables high in oxalate (a by product of metabolism);
  • long term dehydration (possibly due to inadequate intake of fluids) and its resulting concentration of urine;
  • urinary infection;
  • living in an area where high temperatures cause sweating and loss of fluids; or
  • possibly, just leading a sedentary (low physical activity) lifestyle.

The function of the kidneys is to eliminate byproducts of metabolism. (The kidney's parts and workings are explained in detail and wonderfully illustrated at How the Kidney Works.) This means they are constantly collecting the major ingredients for kidney stones - including calcium, oxalate, and uric acid. Ideally these minerals are kept in suspension until they are passed out of the body. Too much metabolic byproducts in insufficient fluid (urine) makes a person prone to kidney stone formation.

The over concentration of metabolic byproducts in the urine can cause these minerals to move out of suspension and crystallize. These small crystals that precipitate out of the super saturated urine will usually pass on out through the urinary tract, but they may begin to clump together. Any existing crystal makes it easier for other crystals to form. If they stay in the kidney very long, the crystals gradually grow larger and larger until they become a kidney stone so large that it cannot pass through the urinary tract such as the one in this PHOTO of a kidney stone by the UCLA medical school.

Several underlying metabolic disorders may be the root cause of excessive calcium and oxalate forming stones in the kidney. Often doctors overlook the basic cause because of the attention of the sufferer being on the immediate cause of the pain leading the physician to be primarily concerned with the extraction or dissolution of the kidney stone causing the problem. The potential root causes include, but are not limited to the following:

  1. A re-absorption of the calcium from the bones back into the blood system which the kidneys then filter out (resorptive hypercalciuria or hyperparathyroidism).
  2. The intestines absorb too much calcium from the diet (absorptive hypercalciuria).
  3. The kidneys filter out calcium from the blood but do not allow the reaborption of the calcium back into the blood as it should while it is still in the tubule of the kidney (renal hypercalciuria).
  4. Several forms of bowel disease (ulcurative colitis, regional enteritis, etc.) which can contribute to high levels of urinary oxalate excretion.
  5. Excess dietary intake of oxalate from foods such as green leafy vegatables. (See list of high oxalate foods later in this article.)
  6. High levels of uric acid in the urine can act as a breeding ground for calcium oxalate stones.
  7. Or, in a reverse manner, the lack of certain stone formation inhibitors normally found in the urine may not be present in sufficient quantities and thereby allow the formation of stones. One such indigredient is citrate (which this author is deficient in); another is magnesium.
  8. Infection stones are indicators of the underlying infection in the urinary tract.

Symptoms of Kidney Stones
Kidney stones may be formed, grow in size, and stay immobile inside the kidney for years without any warning pain or other indicators. Most people don't know they are at risk for forming kidney stones until one or more have been formed. A few people have and pass small kidney stones without experiencing pain, but that is not the usual case. More often the kidney stone makes itself dramatically known when it begins to move through the urinary tract.

A kidney stone attack has classic symptoms: the most agonizing pain in the lower back just below the ribs spreading around to the front of the abdomen and often extending into the groin area. The pain may come in waves as the stone tries to move through the tube between the kidney and the bladder (the ureter). Sometimes there will be blood in the urine. Often there is nausea, fever and chills, and vomiting. The abdomen or lower back may be painful to touch.

The severity of the pain is no indicator of the size of the passing kidney stone. This pain is often described as the worst pain a person has ever suffered even by women who have given birth. It is reported to be more painful than gun shots, surgery, broken bones, or even burns. The pain is not a result of the stone moving or tearing the ureter as a sufferer might suspect. Rather, the pain is caused by the dilating or stretching of the urinary tract being blocked by the stone when it gets stuck in the ureter.

More than one million people in the United States are hospitalized each year because of kidney stone attacks. A suffer should call their doctor or go to the hospital emergency room if they experience severe or persistent bleeding, if the pain continues to be severe, unrelenting and persistent, or if fever and chills or nausea and vomiting develop.

During a kidney stone attack the sufferer should drink large amounts of water (two to three quarts per day). Stay active. Do not go to bed (except for normal sleep periods). Physical activity may actually assist passage of the kidney stones.

SITE CONTENTS

Why Be Concerned
Definition
Location
Causes
Symptoms
Eliminating the Stone
Lithotripsy
Surgery
Alternatives
Recurrance
Chemical Compostion
Prevention
Links to Related Sites
Visitor's Comments
Add Your Comments
Kidney Stone Books


History of 'The Kidney Stone Web Site"
About Roger Baxter
Other Web Sites by RB

Contact Roger Baxter
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Roger Baxter

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Data at this web site should be used for informational purposes only. It is not intended for treatment or diagnostic purposes. Individuals with specific questions should seek the advice of a physician.
















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Why Be Concerned, Definition,
and Location of Kidney Stones

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Eliminating the Sone, Lithotripsy, Surgery,
and Alternative Treatments for Kidney Stones

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Links to Other Sections of The Kidney Stone Web Site

Why Be Concerned
Definition
Location
Causes
Symptoms
Eliminating the Stone
Lithotripsy
Surgery
Alternative Treatments
Recurrance
Chemical Compostion

Prevention
Links to Related Sites
Suggest a Link
Visitor's Comments
Add Your Comments
History of 'The Kidney Stone Web Site"
About Roger Baxter
Other Web Sites by RB
Email Roger Baxter
Privacy Policy
Kidney Stone Books


Latest update January 6, 2006