The kidneys are two of the organs responsible for filtering the blood in the body. They reside high in the back of the abdominal cavity, and produce urine from water and other materials that they filter out of the blood. There are two thin tubes called ureters that connect each kidney to the bladder. Kidney stones are one of the more common problems with the kidneys.
Urine carries minerals that tend to crystallize and form stones. In most people, inhibitors to this process are produced by the kidneys, and problems do not occur. In some people, these inhibitors do not appear to be produced or do not function as they should, and stones are the result. Certain foods can cause problems in people who are already susceptible, but appear to have no effect on those that are not.
A tiny stone can pass through the ureter and be excreted with the urine. People with these types of stones never even know they have them. However, larger ones are too big to pass through the small diameter of the ureter, and get stuck in the kidneys. When the stone gets stuck, the first symptom is extreme pain.
Treatment for kidney stones is usually lots of water and pain medication if needed. In case there is something important about the stone, the patient is usually asked to save it and give it to their doctor. It can be caught by using a strainer when the patient urinates. Most often, the stone is able to be passed in this manner.
If the stone is too big to pass, surgery used to be the only option. Now, less invasive procedures are often done instead, such as using shock waves to break up the stone so that it can pass. Running a specialized tube up the ureter with a tool on it that then crushes the stone is also an option in some cases. Though they do have some side effects, these measures are less likely to cause problems than surgery.
For people who have gotten kidney stones, preventative measures are essential, as they are more susceptible to future ones. Limiting certain foods that are high in oxalates and not taking calcium supplements (though dietary calcium appears alright) are often prescribed. If this is not enough, medications can be added.
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