When it comes to your health and wellbeing, your kidneys are an organ you probably don’t give much thought to. But, this powerful organ works hard. Your kidneys remove waste and extra fluid from your body. Your kidneys also remove acid that is produced by the cells of your body and maintain a healthy balance of water, salts, and minerals—such as sodium, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium—in your blood. Without this balance, nerves, muscles, and other tissues in your body may not work normally.
Your kidneys also make hormones that help:
- control your blood pressure
- make red blood cells NIH external link
- keep your bones strong and healthy
Unfortunately, studies indicate kidney stones are on the rise in our country. In fact, one in ten people will have a kidney stone over the course of a lifetime.
So, what are kidney stones?
When you have too much of certain wastes and not enough fluid in your blood, these wastes can build up and stick together in your kidneys. These clumps of waste are called kidney stones. Kidney stones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large–sometimes larger than–a pearl. They can stay in your kidneys or travel through your ureters (the tubes that go from your kidneys to your bladder), and out of your body with your urine. When a kidney stone moves through your ureters and out your urethra with your urine, it is called passing a kidney stone. A kidney stone can also get stuck in your urinary tract and block urine from getting through. When you pass a kidney stone or a large kidney stone blocks the flow of your urine, it can be very painful.
Types of kidney stones
- Calcium stones are the most common type of kidney stones. They are usually made of calcium and oxalate (a natural chemical found in most foods), but are sometimes made of calcium and phosphate.
- Uric acid stones form when your urine is often too acidic. Uric acid can form stones by itself or with calcium.
- Struvite stones can happen when you have certain types of urinary tract infections in which bacteria make ammonia that builds up in your urine. Struvite stones are made of magnesium, ammonium and phosphate.
- Cystine stones are made of a chemical that your body makes naturally, called cystine. Cystine stones are very rare, and happen in people who have a genetic disorder that causes cystine to leak from the kidneys into the urine.
Unfortunately, many people don’t realize how essential kidney health is, luckily kidney stones are preventable. Here are some tips to consider, according to the American Kidney Fund.
The best way to prevent most kidney stones is to drink enough fluids every day. Most people should drink eight to 12 cups of fluid per day. If you have kidney disease and need to limit fluids, ask your doctor how much fluid you should have each day. Limiting sodium and animal protein (meat, eggs) in your diet may also help to prevent kidney stones. If your doctor can find out what your kidney stone is made of, he or she may be able to give you specific dietary recommendations to help prevent future kidney stones.
If you have a health condition that makes you more likely to have kidney stones, your doctor might tell you to take medicine to treat this condition. Never start or stop any treatment or diet without talking to your doctor first!
Kidney stones can be extremely disruptive to your life and very painful, that’s why it’s important to seek treatment as soon as you suspect you may have them. The Michigan Institute of Urology is one of the longest standing and largest sub-specialty Urology practices in the State of Michigan, we are dedicated to providing our patients the most up to date, state of the art urologic care. Our specialists have been recruited from the most sophisticated university centers in the United States and are available at all of our 22 office locations. Our administrative staff follows strict guidelines to insure the most cost effective medical care is provided. Michigan Institute of Urology, P.C., comprises 46 General and Fellowship Trained Urologists with a complement of compassionate, caring Nurse Practitioners, Registered Nurses, Medical Assistants and Ancillary Personnel.