What Are Kidney Stones?

Kidney Stone

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  • Kidney stones look like crystals that can be as tiny as a grain of sand or as large as a pearl or a golf ball, and are typically found anywhere along the urinary tract, especially in the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra
  • If left untreated, kidney stones can cause complications. For instance, larger stones may completely block urine flow and cause kidney infection or damage

Kidney stones are solid pieces of material that develop in one or both kidneys.1 This condition is also called renal calculi, nephrolithiasis or urolithiasis.2,3

Kidney stones look like crystals that can be as tiny as a grain of sand or as large as a pearl or a golf ball, and are typically found anywhere along the urinary tract, especially in the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra.4,5

Kidney stones are made of substances that have accumulated in the kidneys’ inner lining. Instead of being dissolved by compounds in the urine, these substances crystallize and form big or small pieces.6

The stones are often yellow or brown, but may be tan, gold or black too. The color really depends on the substance responsible for their formation.7

Who Can Get Kidney Stones?

Virtually anyone can get kidney stones. Men and women between 30 and 60 years old are more likely to develop these, although the stones could appear in 20-year-olds too.8,9

However, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, kidney stone specialists reported that more children had stones in recent years. Infants, children and teenagers may already experience this condition.10

Aside from the patient’s age, these other factors can predispose someone to kidney stones:11,12

Family history of kidney stones

Personal history of kidney stones

Dehydration

Obesity

Diets that are high in sodium, protein, sugar, oxalates and/or purine13,14

Low-calcium diet

Low-citrate diet

History of gastric bypass surgery, inflammatory bowel disease or chronic diarrhea

Medical conditions like acidosis, cystinuria and hyperparathyroidism

Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Certain medications such as the migraine medication topiramate (Topimax)15


Complications Linked to Kidney Stones

If left untreated, kidney stones can cause complications. For instance, larger stones may completely block urine flow and cause kidney infection or damage.16

Furthermore, research has shown that kidney stone patients have a higher risk for chronic kidney disease, and consequently, heart attacks. This risk increases if the patient already has diabetes, high blood pressure levels or frequent UTIs.17

Although very rare, it’s been said that kidney stones may lead to kidney failure. The University of Maryland Medical Center lists four factors that may lead to this complication:

Very frequent stone recurrences, especially among those with cysteine stones or other inherited kidney stone disorders

Cases of UTIs with obstruction, usually among people with struvite stones

History of undergoing many procedures for kidney stones

Bigger kidney stone size

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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