Kidney Stones Essay, Research Paper
Kidney stones, also known as Renal Calculi, are one of the most common disorders of the urinary tract. In the U.S. alone, over one million people suffer from kidney stones each year. A kidney stone is a solid lump (from as small as a grain of sand to as large as the size of a golf ball) made up of crystals that separate from urine and build up on the inner surfaces of the kidney. Between 70% and 90% of crystals remain tiny enough so that they can travel through the urinary tract and pass out of the body without being noticed. When they cause symptoms, however, kidney stones have been described as one of the most painful disorders to afflict human beings.
A kidney stone normally begins as a tiny speck of solid material deposited in the middle of the kidney, where urine collects before flowing into the ureter. As more material clings to the first speck, it gradually builds into a solid object. This process can occur in one or both kidneys.
Kidney stones can be composed of a variety of substances. The most common types of kidney stones include calcium stones, uric acid stones and struvite stones. About 70% to 80% of all kidney stones are comprised of calcium and phosphate, or calcium and oxalate. About 7% of stones are made up of uric acid. Uric acid is a crystal that is the end product of purine metabolism. Another 5% of stones are made of magnesium ammonium phosphate and are referred to as struvite stones.
There are many potential causes of kidney stone formation. In general they are all a 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:
h a family genetic predisposition to form stones;
h an access of calcium or certain other minerals in the diet;
h excessive intake of certain medications, Vitamin C or Vitamin D;
h a diet of fruits and vegetables high in oxalate;
h long term dehydration and its resulting concentration of urine;
h living in an area where high temperatures cause sweating and loss of body fluids; or
h leading a sedentary (low physical activity) lifestyle.
Kidney stones may be formed, grow in size and stay immobile inside the kidney for years without any warning pain or other indicators. However, if and when the stone does begin to move through the urinary tract, it is usually tremendously painful. This pain is caused by the obstruction of the ureter by the kidney stone. Pain typically occurs in the lower back just below the ribs, in the abdomen and in the groin. Other associated symptoms include fever, chills, nausea and vomiting.
One of the most important aspects of kidney stone treatment is adequate pain relief. Because the pain of passing a kidney stone is so severe, narcotic painkillers such as morphine are often required. Patients are encouraged to drink large quantities of water in order to help the stone pass more quickly. If the urinary tract becomes infected, antibiotics would be necessary.
Although most kidney stones will pass on their own, some will not. Surgical removal of a stone may become necessary when a stone appears too large to pass. Surgery may also be required if the stone is causing serious obstructions, pain that cannot be treated, heavy bleeding or infection. Several alternatives exist for removing stones. Open surgery is one option; however, it is becoming less common. The most popular alternative has become lithotripsy. This method involves the use of shock waves to break up the stone.
The most effective way to prevent kidney stones is to drink plenty of water (3 quarts per day). Eating a diet sparing in calcium oxalate and salt decreases the risk of kidney stones and an increased consumption of Vitamin B6 and magnesium may also decrease one s risk of forming stones. Staying active is quite important in preventing stones, and physical activity can actually help stones to pass.
In conclusion, kidney stones are a fairly common ailment and are capable of causing excruciating pain. They are composed of crystals and are the result of a super concentration of chemicals in the urine. There are four main types of kidney stones, the most common being calcium stones. Drinking plenty of water and staying active are the best ways to prevent kidney stones.