What Are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones, also known as renal calculi, are hardened deposits of minerals that form in the kidneys and can cause pain as they pass through the urinary tract. Kidney stones do not usually cause permanent damage if recognized early and treated appropriately.
Depending on the size of the stone, treatment may involve drinking a lot of water and letting the stone pass naturally or taking active measures to break up and remove the stone.1 Doctors refer to kidney stone disease as either nephrolithiasis or urolithiasis.
Kidney Stone Types
Thee is more than one type of kidney stone. The five types differ by their underlying cause, and some affect certain groups of people more than others:
Calcium oxalate: This is the most common type, caused by high concentrations of calcium (a mineral you absorb from food) or oxalate (a compound produced by the liver and found in certain foods) in urine. When this occurs, the compounds can bind together to form crystals.
Calcium phosphate: These stones are the result of a high urinary pH (meaning the urine is alkaline rather than acidic). This increases the concentration of calcium phosphate in the urine and promotes the formation of crystals. Stones like these are often due to metabolic disorders or medications that alter the urinary pH.
Cystine: These stones are due to a rare hereditary disorder called cystinuria that causes the overproduction of a compound called cystine. The overproduction can cause cystine to leak into the urine, causing recurrent stones.
Struvite: These stones are mainly associated with urinary tract infections (UTIs). Ammonia produced in response to UTIs can increase the urinary pH and cause the formation of struvite crystals composed of magnesium, ammonium, and phosphate.
Uric acid: This type of stone is caused by high levels of uric acid in the urine. Uric acid is a waste product that usually passes through the kidneys easily but can form crystals if concentrations are high.
Article Submitted to MSRN by Pat France, MSRN