What are Kidney Stones?
A kidney stone (or calculus) is a hard, gravel like mass, which forms in the kidney and may pass into the ureter (the tube linking the kidney with the bladder). Urine usually collects in the kidney before being excreted through the ureter into the bladder and out of the body through the urethra. In some people, certain substances in the urine are present at excessive levels. These substances form crystals, which gradually combine to create a stone.
Causes of a Kidney Stone
There are several types of kidney or urethral stones. The most common types of kidney stones are formed from calcium oxalate or phosphates. The reasons for the over production of one or more of these substances in the urine are often difficult to determine, but may be caused by a metabolic malfunction. This disorder is sometimes due to an overactive parathyroid gland. The gland’s over activity causes a build up of calcium in the urine. In addition to an excess of a normal constituent of the urine, another cause of kidney stones is the presence of an abnormal constituent. This may be the result of certain rare inherited metabolic disorders. Kidney or urethral stones resulting from a urinary tract infection are quite rare. Bacteria act on the urea, which is contained in urine to produce stones, composed of calcium, magnesium and ammonium phosphate. Stones are quite common. In Australia, about 5,000 people a year have a kidney or urethral stone. This complaint occurs more frequently in men than in women and is more common among people over the age of 30. The problem is also likely to recur after treatment. About 60% of sufferers develop another stone.
Is a Kidney Stone dangerous?
If a stone causing an obstruction is left untreated for any length of time, it can lead to an infection of the urinary tract and inflammation of the kidney, which may result in damage and, very rarely kidney failure. However, a kidney stone is very unlikely to go undiagnosed because of the severe pain it causes.