Kidney stones refer to the presence of stones in the kidneys. Medically, there are two terms that are often used interchangeably but have some differences. Urolithiasis is a term referring to stones that are found anywhere in the urinary system such as the kidney and bladder. Nephrolithiasis refer to stones that are in the kidney itself. Kidney stones usually form in the kidney and will attempt to leave the body through the urine stream. A stone that is small can often pass without symptoms but if it has grown to more than 5 millimeters, it can lead to blockage in the ureter and cause symptoms in the affected individual. The majority of stones form due to combinations of factors such as genetics and environmental factors. Some of the risk factors for kidney stones include high levels of urinary calcium, certain medications and foods, obesity, calcium supplementation, gout, inadequate fluids, and hyperparathyroidism.
When your urine has a high concentration of minerals, stones can easily form. The diagnosis of a kidney stone is usually made clinically, which means it is based on the patient’s symptoms, urine testing, and also medical imaging. Stones can be classified based on their location in the urinary tract: stones in the kidneys are known as nephrolithiasis, stones in the ureter are called ureterolithiasis, in the bladder as cystolithiasis or based on the composition of the stones: calcium oxalate, struvite, cystine, and uric acid stones. The risk of stones can be reduced by drinking plenty of fluids every day. The treatment and management of kidney stones include pain management and ultimately, removal of the stones. Globally, up to 15% of individuals are affected by kidney stones, and there were 22.1 million cases of kidney stones in the year 2015 that led to approximately 16,100 deaths. Men are more likely to be affected compared to women.
Kidney Stones Symptom #1: Pain
The pain is often predictable where it reaches its peak within 2 hours after its onset and is usually present in the costovertebral angle. The pain is usually located between the dermatomes of T10 (umbilical level) to the groin level, radiates, and comes in waves. The attack usually lasts approximately 3 to 18 hours. The pain can be divided into three different phases.
The acute phase where it starts early in the morning and waking the individual from sleep. This pain is usually steady and becomes increasingly severe and can become excruciating. The second phase is known as the constant phase where the pain reaches maximum intensity and remains that way until it is treated or diminishes by itself. The second phase is where most patients are seen in the emergency department. The third phase is the relief phase where the pain resolves, and the patient feels relief.
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