Kidney stones are formed in the kidneys and then either stay in those organs or break loose into the urinary tract.(1) While a majority of people have the proper amount of chemical inhibitors in their urine to prevent crystals from forming through the kidneys, those who don’t—or those who for some reason have inhibitors that don’t function as effectively—will experience the formation of kidney stones.
The next key factor is, rather obviously, the size of these crystals. If they are microscopic in size, they will pass through the urinary tract without a person even knowing it. But for those faced with a large version of the calcium and oxalate or phosphate rocks, dealing with these and eventually passing them through can be a very painful experience. In a smaller number of cases, urinary tract infections can also cause a kidney stone known as struvite.
Range of Causes
There is a whole range of factors that can tie into a person getting kidney stones. These include diet; family history; kidney disorders; metabolic problems; and the aforementioned urinary tract infections. The people most likely statistically to get kidney stones, at a rate of 70%, are those who suffer from renal tubular acidosis.
The metabolic disorder cystinuria causes an excess of the amino acid cystine, which can become stones in the urine while hyperoxaluria causes people to produce too much of oxalate. Along with the separate metabolic disorder hyperuricosuria, other rare causes of kidney stones are gout and vitamin D overdose.
Lots of Water
Only about 15% of those who develop kidney stones cannot pass them during urination.(2) For those diagnosed with these smaller stones, six to eight glasses of water per day are often advised, along with another one at bedtime and, optionally, some medication. For every woman in the U.S. with kidney stones, there are four males suffering from the same affliction.
Patients are often asked to pee through a strainer so that the stones can be intercepted and sent back to the medical lab for full analysis. Ultimately, this is the most accurate way for a doctor to determine where a person’s stones are “coming” from.
(1) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Kidney Stones, Retrieved October 4, 2011 from http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/Kudiseases/pubs/stonesadults/
(2) University of Maryland Medical Center – Kidney Stones, Retrieved October 4, 2011 from http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/kidney-stones-000170.htm