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What are kidney stones?

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Kidney Stone

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  • Other names for kidney stones include renal calculi, nephrolithiasis or urolithiasis
  • These stones, which may be yellow, brown, tan, gold or black, can develop in one or both of your kidneys
  • Some factors that may raise your kidney stone risk include obesity, genetics and excessive consumption of foods high in protein, sugar, sodium, oxalates and purine
  • If not unaddressed, kidney stones may predispose you to health issues like kidney disease, coronary heart disease and stroke

Kidney stones, also called renal calculi,1 nephrolithiasis or urolithiasis, develop in one or both of your kidneys.2 They develop because of high amounts of substances like uric acid, calcium and oxalate in your urine,3 and at the same time due to low quantities of water that may dilute them. These factors may cause your urine to become more acidic and trigger the formation of these stones.4

The stones may be small, like a grain of sand, or as large as a pearl or even, in extreme cases, a golf ball.5 They are often yellow or brown,6 but may be tan, gold or black too.7 Tiny stones can be eliminated from your body when you pee,8 but if they’re too large, they can become trapped in your urinary tract and cause pain.9

Who can get kidney stones?

Virtually anyone can get kidney stones. Men and women between 30 and 50 years old10 are more likely to develop them, although the stones may appear among 20-year-olds too.11 According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, infants, children and teenagers may also develop kidney stones.12,13 Risk factors that can predispose someone to kidney stones include:14,15

  • A family history for this condition
  • Previous case of kidney stones
  • Dehydration
  • Obesity
  • Consuming foods high in protein, sodium, sugar, oxalates16 or purine17
  • Low-calcium or low-citrate diet
  • History of gastric bypass surgery, inflammatory bowel disease or chronic diarrhea
  • Medical conditions like acidosis, cystinuria, hyperparathyroidism and urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Certain medications such as the migraine medication topiramate (Topamax)18

Complications linked to kidney stones

If left untreated, kidney stones can cause complications. Some stones may completely block urine flow19 or trigger UTIs that may result in kidney infection and other complications like blood in urine or hematuria or kidney function loss.20 Research has also shown that people with kidney stones may have a higher risk for chronic kidney disease,21 coronary heart disease and stroke.22

MORE ABOUT KIDNEY STONES

Kidney Stones: Introduction

What Are Kidney Stones?

Kidney Stones Types

Kidney Stones Causes

Kidney Stones Symptoms

Kidney Stones Prevention

Kidney Stones Duration

Kidney Stones Treatment

Kidney Stones Surgery

Kidney Stones Diet

Kidney Stones FAQ

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