Where do kidney stones arise?
How do you get kidney stones or ureteral stones?
Because such a stone often wanders through the urinary tract afterwards, it is named based on its current position: For example, medical professionals speak of a kidney, ureter, bladder or urethral stone. According to statistics, one in five Germans will receive this diagnosis at least once in their lifetime - usually at around 30 to 60 years of age. Statistically, men are significantly more frequently affected than women.
Small urinary stones are usually barely noticeable and are often discovered by chance during an ultrasound or X-ray examination of the abdomen. In many cases, after such a random diagnosis, it makes sense to drink a lot of fluids: the body can often flush out a small stone with the urine on its own. In the best case scenario, this is barely noticeable for you.
Urinary stones often cause discomfort only with increasing volume: If a larger stone passes from the kidney into the ureter, it can block it, especially in narrow areas, or even completely close it. Because urine builds up as a result and the muscles of the ureter cramp around the stone, extreme, labor-like pain occurs. These so-called renal colic usually occur in waves in the kidneys and lower back and sometimes radiate into the abdominal and genital regions. The pain is often felt as pulling, dull, or stabbing and is often associated with nausea and vomiting. In addition, it is often difficult for those affected to urinate or notice blood in the urine.
If you have renal colic, contact your family doctor immediately: In addition to pain therapy and close medical monitoring, in some cases you also need targeted removal of the urinary stone. Without medical treatment, a possible urinary obstruction can have serious consequences such as kidney damage or blood poisoning: If you have additional symptoms such as high fever, chills and impaired consciousness, call 112 immediately and call the emergency services.
Your doctor will first ask you about your exact symptoms and your medical history. This is followed by a physical examination, during which, for example, the abdomen and back are carefully felt and tapped. If a urinary stone is suspected, further examination methods are then used:
Urine and blood test
Your urine and blood values will be tested in a laboratory. This can be used, for example, to determine whether there is blood in the urine or whether your blood has abnormal levels of electrolytes and uric acid.
On the images of the subsequent ultrasound examination, your doctor can identify a urinary stone particularly well if it is in the kidney or in the ureter near the bladder.
Computed tomography (CT)
If the ultrasound scan does not provide a reliable diagnosis, an additional CT will bring clarity: your doctor can usually use it to determine the exact location, size, composition and density of the urinary stone.
Urinary stones are usually treated by a urologist. Depending on individual factors such as the size, location and composition of the stone, your doctor will recommend the most suitable therapy option for you.
Types and origin
Urinary stones can arise due to a variety of causes and consist of different minerals. The following types of stone are by far the most common:
Calcium oxalate stones
About three quarters of all diagnosed urinary stones consist of calcium oxalate. If there is an excess of oxalic acid and calcium in the body, this salt is mainly concentrated in the urine - and thus increases the risk of a urinary stone. In addition to a diet rich in oxalates, this can also be due to various diseases. For example, an overactive parathyroid gland can lead to increased calcium levels or a disease with loss of bile acid can lead to an increased oxalic acid level. The latter include, for example, Crohn's disease or short bowel syndrome.
Another ten percent of all urinary stones are made up of the mineral struvite and arise as a possible consequence of a urinary tract infection. Due to the composition of struvite stones, doctors also speak of magnesium ammonium phosphate or triple phosphate stones.
Uric acid stones
Uric acid is produced in the body when foods rich in purine are broken down: If you eat a lot of meat, offal, fish and seafood, this can increase uric acid levels and promote the formation of uric acid stones. Important to know: There is a particularly high risk with an additional gout disease.
Many urinary stones are products of a typical western lifestyle: Excessive meat consumption, inadequate drinking and lack of exercise contribute significantly to the development of most stones. Minimize - especially after successful urinary stone therapy - your personal risk of a relapse in the long term:
- Drink enough fluids. The German Nutrition Society recommends that adults use around 1.3 to 1.5 liters of water per day, depending on their age. Soft drinks are unsuitable and add to the risk. It is better to use water or unsweetened drinks such as tea.
- A normal body weight lowers the risk of urinary stones. Eat a balanced diet. Reduce your consumption of animal protein. Many plant-based foods such as fruit, vegetables, lettuce or cereal products are well suited.
- Eat a low-salt diet. For example, there is a lot of salt in finished products. It is better to use fresh products and season dishes with delicious herbs. Tip: A low-salt diet also counteracts high blood pressure. In many cases, depending on your individual diagnosis, your doctor can give you valuable nutrition tips. Also contact a nutritionist for further professional advice.
- Get enough exercise or exercise. Make sure you drink enough fluids, especially if you sweat profusely.
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