The medical term for Kidney Stones is Renal Lithiasis or Nephrolithiasis. This condition is caused by the formation of salt and mineral deposits in any part of your urinary tract. As these formations become more concentrated, they start to crystallize and clump together, turning into “stones.” The Mayo Clinic says that these are naturally occurring and may not cause any detriment to the health if detected earlier. The removal of these stones, also coined as the “passing of stones” can be painful, but can be eased by drinking lots of liquids and taking pain relievers. However, they must be immediately removed, since they can cause an infection in the urinary tract once it is lodged in the passageway and obstructs urination.
WebMD breaks down the process for us: our kidneys work as a filter for our blood, so only the essential nutrients are distributed along and absorbed by the body. All those insignificant and possibly harmful substances are removed and diluted into a urine solution made of water, salts, urea, and uric acids. It’s in this solution that these minerals clump to form the stones, and they can be harmless in the beginning, until they aren’t.
Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Stones
These stones can’t be boiled down to a single definite cause. Still, as Mayo Clinic discusses, it starts to form once your urine solution has more crystal-forming substances, namely oxalate, calcium, and uric acid, than what can be diluted. It could also be that your urine does not have enough substances that prevent the crystal formations, particularly citric acids, and citrates.
There is an increased risk of developing kidney stones due to your personal and family history. If people in your family have had kidney stones, especially the older generation, chances are you can get them as well. Also, take note that once you have developed a formation, it’s easier for your body to form another. The amount of Junkfood and Fastfood consumed by the modern-day person may as well cause detrimental effects to your kidneys and can encourage the kidney stone formations faster.
However, most types of kidney stones develop without detection, but your body will give hints that something isn’t going right. The symptoms can present themselves as irregularities concerning the urinary tract. It can start with occasional pains or inability to urinate. Obesity and other existing digestive conditions can also affect the absorption of nutrients and liquids in your body, and then further increase the levels of crystallizing substances in your urine without your notice.
With that, you need further knowledge to catch the symptoms of kidney stones immediately. Here are the signs and symptoms laid out by Healthline that hints the presence of kidney stones in your urinary tract.
1. Back, belly and side pains
These pains are called Renal Colic and can turn into one of the most painful and debilitating conditions one can experience. Some patients likened the sensation to childbirth or a stab wound. These are already indications that the stone may have passed through to the ureter and has caused a blockage. This will result in a pressure that activates the nerve fibers in the kidney.
In fact, Pub Med Central accounts that it takes up 1 million emergency room visits per year. This severe pain can be felt along the side and the back, just below the ribcage, and it can reach your belly and groin area. However, these pains may not directly dictate the possibility of existing kidney stones, as these can be a symptom of other conditions like appendicitis, a urinary tract infection, or an STD. A physician should be consulted as they can palpate the areas of the body and determine where the pain is genuinely originating.
2. Burning sensation when urinating
This burning sensation is called a Dysuria and can get extremely painful. This is due to the presence of a kidney stone in the junction of your bladder and ureter. Although this may also be a sign of a urinary tract infection, it must also be noted that the kidney stones themselves can cause irritation, thus an ensuing infection. This can also be traced back to any inflammation caused by the presence by uric acid crystallizing by itself or by combining with calcium deposits in the urethra or bladder and is as well a common symptom of sexually transmitted diseases.
Its debilitating effect is usually coupled by the frequent need to urinate without anything coming out, and it will be enough to send you looking for a consultation with a physician. If left unattended, it can lead to bouts of fever and chills, and may even lead to further kidney damage. This can be traced to the unhealthy concentrations of the urine solution, and this can be treated with urinary alkalization, with some antibiotics to alleviate possible infections.
3. Uncontrollable and frequent urge to go
Urinal urgency is also a known symptom of a urinary tract infection. A healthy human usually urinates between 6-8 times a day in an interval. Urinal urgency may also present as the sensation alone without any urine coming out. However, this is an indication that the stone has passed through to the lower areas of the urinary tract. This can as well be a consequence of the aging process, where the bladder loses its elasticity and its ability to hold, thus the need to relieve it frequently.
Other diseases concerning this system of the body may be the cause of such a sensation, and this may or may not exist alongside the presence of kidney stones. This includes renal tubular acidosis, hyperparathyroidism, and Cystinuria. Medication taken to cure these said ailments may contain chemicals that can lead to the formation of kidney stones and may trigger the frequent urge to urinate.
4. Cloudy, smelly and bloody urine
It must be noted that the standard color of urine is clear straw yellow and does not have an odor. Once the urine starts to turn cloudy and foamy, Medicine Net states that this is an indication that a crystallization process has begun internally, or that there is an excessive protein content in it. This may also be because some pus is causing the turbidity called Pyuria. The presence of pus can indicate the developing of an irritation or an infection. The concentrated and foul-smelling odor can also be attributed to such.
According to the MSD Manuals, having blood in the urine is scientifically called as Hematuria. It can sometimes darken the color of the urine, while some blood cells may not be visible without the microscope. This is caused by the damage done to the kidney due to the excessive pressures of the blockages. This may be a cause for alarm since a vital organ has begun to swell, and further damage may require surgery. It must be consulted with a specialist immediately as these are also symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases.
A study conducted by PubMed states that 8% of people with kidney stone formations eventually developed a urinary tract infection.
5. Urine Flow Blockages
As earlier mentioned, urine blockages are due to the kidney stones reaching the narrow passageways of the ureter and are too big to pass through. These cause pressure on the kidney, which results in an excruciatingly painful sensation when urinating. This may also cause the urine to flow inconsistently, in smaller quantities at a time, and may bring the urge to urinate frequently even when no urine comes out. The moment the urine stops entirely calls for a medical emergency.
A variety of tests are done to find out if there are indeed stone blockages or if there are other causes. CT scan, blood tests, ultrasounds, and urinalyses may be conducted to detect the high mineral levels in the blood and to find out the best ways these stones may be uncovered. According to the American Kidney Fund, there are more or less four types of these formations, which can be as small as a sand grain, or as big as a pearl. It goes without saying that the smaller the stones, the easier they are to pass through your ureters and remove them from the urinary tract entirely.
Usually, these are a different type of kidney stone, since Struvite stones are similar to size as fine sand. Although small enough to pass the ureter, it can easily irritate the linings, cause the blood vessels to swell, and eventually constrict the passageway. The larger ones are usually classified as Cystine and are likely to cause a blockage. In most cases, kidney stones will naturally pass out of the body eventually. Still, the process may be painful, so taking in some pain medicine and some alpha-blockers to relax the ureters can help a lot. If the stones are too big, other invasive procedures may be recommended.
6. Nausea and Vomiting
In and of itself, the discomfort of nausea and frequent vomiting can be a reason for an emergency room visit. This can also be one way that the body responds to the debilitating pain caused by the kidney stones to the loin and groin area, and it’s a fairly common symptom. This can be traced to the fact that the kidneys and urinary tract share the same nerve connections, of which any internal disturbance caused by the stones can easily trigger an upset stomach. The sensation may be prevalent while you are waiting for the stone to pass, so you should take some anti-nausea medication coupled with some bed rest.
However, it must be noted that if these symptoms persist, it may be an indication that the stones are still present, or the formations are continual. A good recommendation for this will be to have yourself checked and tested if you have Cystinuria, a genetic disorder that causes the body to naturally produce a chemical named Cystine that leaks into your urine and causes the formations.
7. Fever and Chills
When fever and chills are added into the symptoms, this may be a valid reason to head over to an emergency. This is a clear indication that an infection has developed in the urinary tract or the kidney. Characteristically, this causes the body to weaken, loss of appetite. It also results in some parts of the head and the muscles to ache. This requires immediate medical attention, as this may lead to more severe complications if left unattended.
The fever, which is also called Hyperthermia that accompanies a condition is usually symptomatic and is the body’s response to fighting off a virus or a bacteria that is harming the body. The chills, however, are a direct effect from the fever, because the brain shifts the average body temperature to a higher level, and this can cause shivers and a need to put on several layers of clothing. This can be treated with antibiotics, but it best if it is administered as prescribed by a physician.
It is always best to re-evaluate your body. Especially when you notice new sensations you are feeling and how it is performing as compared to before. Being able to detect the changes in your body, especially the internal ones, can significantly benefit you in the long run, especially now that we are all aging, and our health should be more of a priority than ever.
It must also be noted that kidney stones aren’t permanent with the signs and symptoms most likely subsiding after medication, rest, and switching to a healthier, low sodium diet.
It is also highly recommended that the particular pains and conditions, although symptomatic of kidney stones, may not be a visible indication that you have them. Now that you are aware of the causes and the symptoms, you should lean towards the side of caution and work on preventing the condition. Although kidney stones may be an indicator that your consumption may be unhealthy and imbalanced, it can also be a warning that some parts of your body are starting to be deficient, so this information can help you in figuring that out.