Why do kidney stones form?

Kidney stones form when the minerals and acid salts in the urine clump together to form a crystalline stone. This happens when the urine is concentrated as the person is most likely not getting enough fluids.

Kidney stones are officially known as renal calculus or nephrolith, however most people still call them kidney stones. Their names basically tell us what they are. They are stones that form in the kidneys. Kidneys are the place that collects the waste products from the cells and excrete them out of the body in the form of urine.

Now kidney stones are basically stones that have formed in the kidneys. These occur when the various minerals and acid salts in the urine clump together to form a crystal or stone. In fact, on average many stones are formed in the kidney. However, these are often small and pass through with the urine without any problems.

Still, once in a while a stone forms that is big enough to cause discomfort. These stone often form when the urine is too concentrated, which makes it easier for the minerals to come into contract with each other and stick together. The urine can become concentrated for a variety of reasons, the most common of which is that the person is not getting enough fluids in their system, or is loosing too many fluids and not replenishing them, such as not drinking enough water after exercising.

These stones pass from the kidney into the ureter with the urine. However, instead of passing directly through the ureter into the bladder and then out of the body, these stones get stuck in the ureter, which is a thin tube that connects the kidney to the bladder. The stone can then block the passage of the urine and cause severe pain. However, the stone does pass by itself over time and doctors recommend drinking extra water to help it along. Nevertheless, sometimes the stone might be too big to pass. In these extreme situations, a minor surgery may be required to remove the stone.

There are many different types of kidney stones, all of which form for different reasons.

  • Calcium Stones: these stones are the most common type of stones and are usually in the form of calcium oxalate. Oxalate is commonly found in the food. Hence, some factors such as an high intake of vitamin D, intestinal bypass surgery and several metabolic disorders can increase the concentration of calcium or oxalate in urine; hence making the possibility of a calcium stone forming more likely. Calcium Stones can also form as calcium phosphate.
  • Struvite Stones: These stones form when there is an infection, such as a urinary tract infection. These stones can grow really quickly and with very few warnings or symptoms; hence can cause serious problems.
  • Uric Acid Stones: As the name suggests, these stones form out of uric acid. These are more likely when a person does not get adequate water or fluids. It may also form in people who have gout. Certain genetic factors may also increase the risk of uric acid stones.
  • Cystine Stones: These are more common in people who have a hereditary disorder that causes the kidneys to excrete too much of a certain type of amino acids.
  • Other Stones: There are also some other types of stones that may occur, but these are too rare. 

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