What Is a Kidney Stone?
Your kidneys are the beginning of your urinary system. Your urine is filtered in the kidneys and comes down into your bladder through a ureter, one from each kidney. The urine is held in the urinary bladder until the bladder is emptied, when the urine passes through the urethra and out the urethral opening.
A risk with kidney stones is a kidney infection, which can lead to sepsis. Sometimes called blood poisoning, sepsis is the body's often deadly response to infection or injury. Sepsis kills and disables millions and requires early suspicion and rapid treatment for survival.
Urine has no solids, but there are times when the crystals in urine join together to form a stone. Although there are several substances that can form stones, the four most common are made of:
- Calcium – common and can recur
- Cystine – an amino acid
- Struvite – develop as a result of urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Uric acid – a crystalline compound
How Do You Get Kidney Stones?
While we don’t know what causes the stones to form, we do know that some stones form more easily than others. Dehydration, not consuming enough fluids, can contribute to stones forming, as there may not be enough urine to wash out the microscopic crystals.
Calcium stones, the most common kidney stones, seem to affect more men than women and they are most often in the twenties when it happens.
- Too much calcium in the urine caused by disease, such as hyperparathyroidism
- Having too much sodium, usually taken in through salt
Although food doesn’t cause the stone formation, some people may be told to avoid high calcium foods if they are prone to developing stones.
Cystine stones are caused by a disorder that runs in families and affects both men and women.
Struvite stones are virtually always caused by a urinary tract infection (UTI) as a result of an enzyme secreted by certain types of bacteria. Because more women than men have UTIs, more women than men develop struvite stones. These stones can grow very large and can block the kidney, ureter, or bladder.
Uric acid stones also affect more men than women and they can also occur in people who already get calcium stones. People who have high uric acid levels may have or go on to develop gout.