Kidney stones are concentrated deposits of crystallized minerals and salts that form in your kidneys, affecting your urinary tract and causing pain that is so serious and intense that it is often compared to childbirth. Sometimes, it can even result in certain urinary infections and you might need surgery to get it out of your body.
While they usually do not cause permanent damage, they are still something that you probably want to avoid because passing a kidney stone can be incredibly painful, especially for men. If you want to avoid kidney stones, new studies are showing that there are a number of unexpected risk factors you would need to avoid, including warm temperatures, excessive antibiotic use, and even certain occupations.
There are a couple different types of kidney stones. Most are made from calcium mixed with a substance known as oxalate, which is made by your liver and it is also found in many of the foods that you eat. People often end up with too much of calcium and oxalate in their body if they have too much vitamin D, if they have had intestinal bypass surgery, or if they have a history of certain metabolic disorders. Metabolic disorders can also cause calcium stones that are mixed with phosphate instead of being mixed with oxalate.
Other types of kidneys stones can be the results of an infection, dehydration, a high protein content diet, certain genetic conditions, and certain urinary tract and kidney conditions. Scientists are still studying the different types of kidney stones that different people are at risk for, which is why many doctors will ask if they can keep your kidney stone (if you still have it). Sometimes, they want it for further research, but it can also be used to help them better understand your own personal health needs.
Most people do not know they have a kidney stone until it moves around your kidney or starts to move towards your bladder. You will usually only start to experience symptoms once it is no longer stationary. These symptoms include, pain in your side and back, pain that moves from your lower abdomen to your groin, pain while urinating, pink urine, red urine, brown urine, cloudy urine, foul smelling urine, nausea, vomiting, constant urination, fever, chills, urinating in small amounts, and difficulty passing urine.
The exact causes of kidney stones are mostly unknown, but it usually has to do with urine that contains an excess amount of substances that are capable of forming crystals. Your urine should contain a certain amount of crystal substances, but if there are more crystal forming chemicals than your urine is capable of diluting, than doctors believe that you will most likely develop a kidney stone. These crystal forming substances include calcium, oxalate, and uric acid.
Although the exact mechanisms of how they form in your kidneys are still unknown, scientists have discovered multiple risk factors that can increase your chances of getting a kidney stone, including a family history of kidney stones, a personal history of kidney stones, dehydration, a high protein content diets a high salt or sodium content diet, obesity or high BMI, certain digestive system diseases, certain digestive system surgeries, renal tubular acidosis, cystinuria, and hypothyroidism.
Recent studies also show that warm temperature can increase your risk. At warmer temperatures, dehydration is more likely. However, even if you are not dehydrated, your urine tends to get more concentrated, which can result in kidney stones. Therefore, people who live in warmer climates tend to get more kidney stones. Additionally, it appears as though there is a correlation between global warming and an increase in kidney stone incidences.
Although average global temperatures have only increased by one degree Celsius in the last century, for various reasons, urban areas are more likely to experience hotter temperatures, meaning the average city has increased in temperature by more than one degree Celsius. This temperature increase in the most heavily populated areas of the world can account for the increase in kidney stone incidences.
Other recent studies show that antibiotics can cause kidney stones. While antibiotics kill off dangerous pathogens, they can also kill off bacteria that we need to stay healthy. For example, oxalobacter, a type of bacteria that lives in your colon, regulates the amount of oxalate that ends up in your bloodstream and, ultimately, your kidneys. It uses oxalate for cellular respiration, which means it takes in oxalate so that you do not have it floating around your bloodstream. Since oxalate is a common substance found in kidney stones, many kidney stones are likely caused by too much oxalate in your body. Antibiotics can kill the bacteria that prevents too much oxalate from getting into your body, so excessive use of antibiotics can result in higher risks of getting a kidney stone.
Certain occupations can present an additional kidney stone risk factor. People who work jobs that require you to avoid using the bathroom for long periods of time tend to get kidney stones more often. You are most at risk if you are driver, nurse, doctor, baseball player, or another type of athlete. Avoiding the bathroom can cause a number of kidney and bladder problems that can ultimately result in a kidney stone. Therefore, you should never put off going to the bathroom if you want to avoid these health conditions.
The prevalence of kidney stones are increasing and reports show that many people have to take significant time off work in order to deal passing a kidney stone or even to get it surgically removed. While they are technically harmless, they are incredibly painful and, unless your unlucky genetics are playing a big role in giving you kidney stones, they are also often preventable. If you are concerned that you might have kidney stone or that you might be at risk for getting a kidney stone, you should talk to your doctor about how best to manage the situation.