Thursday, November 09, 2006

What Are Kidney Stones?

What Are Kidney Stones?
By Vik S

Kidney StonesFor those who have had a kidney stone before already know how painful it can be. Most kidney stones pass out of the body without a doctor's help. But sometimes a stone will not just go away, it may even get larger and that's when you need a doctor's help.

When to call a doctor
These may be signs of a kidney stone that needs a doctor's intervention:

1) Extreme pain in your back or side that will not go away.
2) Blood in your urine.
3) Fever and chills.
4) Vomiting.
5) Urine that smells bad or looks cloudy.
6) A burning feeling when you urinate.

What your kidneys do
Your kidneys are bean-shaped organs, each about the size of your fist. They are located near the middle of your back, just below the rib cage. The kidneys are sophisticated trash collectors. Every day, your kidneys process about 200 quarts of blood to sift out about 2 quarts of waste products and extra water. The waste and extra water become urine, which flows to your bladder through tubes called ureters. Your bladder stores urine until you go to the bathroom.

The wastes in your blood come from the normal breakdown of active muscle and from the food you eat. Your body uses the food for energy and self-repair. After your body has taken what it needs from the food, waste is sent to the blood. If your kidneys did not remove these wastes, the wastes would build up in the blood and damage your body. In addition to removing wastes, your kidneys help control blood pressure. They also help to make red blood cells and keep your bones strong.

Kidney stones
A kidney stone is a solid piece of material that forms in the kidney out of substances in the urine. A stone may stay in the kidney or break loose and travel down the urinary tract. A small stone may pass all of the way out of the body without causing too much pain. A larger stone may get stuck in a ureter, the bladder, or the urethra. A problem stone can block the flow of urine and cause great pain.

There are four major types of kidney stone The most common type of stone contains calcium. Calcium that is not used by the bones and muscles goes to the kidneys. In most people, the kidneys flush out the extra calcium with the rest of the urine. People who have calcium stones keep the calcium in their kidneys. The calcium that stays behind joins with other waste products to form a stone. A struvite stone may form after an infection in the urinary system. These stones contain the mineral magnesium and the waste product ammonia. A uric acid stone may form when there is too much acid in the urine. If you tend to form uric acid stones, you may need to cut back on the amount of meat you eat. Cystine stones are rare. Cystine is one of the building blocks that make up muscles, nerves, and other parts of the body. Cystine can build up in the urine to form a stone. The disease that causes cystine stones runs in families.

About the Author
By Vik S.

Picture: An ultrasonic instrument in direct contact with a large stone in the kidney.