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Kidney Stones : Do I have them?

The roots of the history of urinary stone disease dates back to the days of Ancient Egyptians and Mesapatomia and it has since been a disease of great concern to people and a challenging disease to treat for the physicians. Kidney stone disease which is one of the most common afflictions of modern society is also known as Nephrolithiasis or Urolithiasis which is a solid piece of material made of minerals that develop in the urinary tract. It was primarily a disease of the bladder but with modernisation of global culture it has also involved the kidneys. Men are more prone to Kidney stones than women and in this article we are going to talk about how to recognise them.

As per the current global statistics 1 in every 10 people has a chance of developing kidney stones and as of today the global burden of treating these patients is over 10 billion dollars. Earlier we diagnose the disease better so we can manage these patients and lessen the burden on the society as well. This brings us to the question ‘How do you know you have kidney stones ?’

How can I know that I have stones ?

The most common way one gets to know about the stone disease is when they have pain which can be mild to excruciating pain in the loin area radiating to the groin and inner thigh which is called renal colic. This pain is accompanied by urinary urgency and pain, restlessness, blood in urine, nausea and vomiting. The pain is in wave form of 30 to 60 min intervals.

As the stones passes down your pipe the pain can become more severe and you can have burning, frequency and even bleeding in urine. Sometimes some patients feel that their urine has completely stopped.

Risk Factors :

  1. Dehydration: People with low fluid intake, excessive sweating, working in extreme heat and living in hot, arid and dry climatic conditions are prone to kidney stone disease.

  2. Life style: Sedentary. immobility and obesity add to the risk of stone formation.

  3. Diabetes which is a global disease and Metabolic syndrome is strongly associated with kidney stone disease.

  4. Metabolic conditions like distal Renal tubular acidosis, Dent’s disease, Primary hyperoxaluria, Hyperparathyroidism and Medullary sponge kidney can result in kidney stone disease.

  5. Dietary habits of western nations which are high on animal proteins have a higher tendency of forming stone when compared to the vegetarians.

Diagnostics :

Here are some tests that the doctor will recommend to figure out about the size and location of your stones.

X-Ray : Radiograph of the abdomen, KUB region to be more precise is a simple and basic evaluation tool to diagnose stones in the urinary tract. However the limitations in this test are tiny kidney stones  and stones that are soft with low density (radiolucent) are not visible. 

Ultrasonography : A low cost and radiation free investigation which is useful to detect hydroureteronephrosis (swelling of kidney and ureter) which is an indirect sign of a stone blocking the urinary flow. It can also pick up the radiolucent stones which are normally missed on a radiograph. It also is useful diagnose any other associated anomalies of kidney, ureter and bladder.

Computed Tomography (CT scan) : A non contrast helical CT scan of the KUB region is the most accurate form of investigation to diagnose kidney stones of any size. The scan sections are 0.5 mm thick and can diagnose almost all kinds of kidney stones. In centres where CT scan is not available a intravenous pyelogram may be performed to diagnose kidney stones.

Individuals with above mentioned symptoms or risk factors should be vary of kidney stones and I strongly suggest you to meet your doctor / urologist for further evaluation and treatment.

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