Kidney Stones are a Common Problem
Kidney stones have plagued humans since the dawn of time. Archeologists have even found evidence of [kidney stones in a mummy that is 7,000 years old](http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/Kudiseases/pubs/stonesadults/). In most cases, these stones will pass out of the body without causing too many problems. Occasionally, they will lead to discomfort and potentially serious complications. Drinking alcohol is not believed to directly cause kidney stones, but it may make the situation worse. Moderate consumption of alcohol may reduce the risk of kidney stone formation.
Importance of the Kidneys
The kidneys can be found at the back of the abdomen. They are usually four inches in length and can be found on either side of the spine. These kidney-bean shaped organs have the important function of removing waste products from the blood. If this waste is not removed, the individual will become ill and eventually die. The kidneys also serve the vital function of removing excess water from the body in the form of urine.
Kidney Stones Explained
A _kidney stone_ refers to a solid material that can form in this organ. It is a [stone-like lump](http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/kidney-stones/Pages/Introduction.aspx). It is also sometimes referred to as a _renal calculus_ or nephrolithiasis. These stones can appear in one or both kidneys. The material for the stones comes from the waste that this organ is tasked with removing from the body. This waste can begin to accumulate as crystals that can eventually turn into stones.
These are the four major types of kidney stones:
* A _uric acid stone_ develops when urine is too acidic. This can happen if people eat too much meat.
* _Calcium stones_ are the most common. People need to have calcium in their diet, but too much leads to accumulation in the kidneys and the formation of stones.
* _Cystine stones_ are made up from a chemical that is used by muscle and nerves. Some individuals seem to have inherited a predisposition to forming this rare type of stone.
* A _struvite stone_ can occur after people have had an infection. This type of stone is made up of ammonia and magnesium.
Causes of Kidney Stones
There are several factors that increase the risk for solid accumulations in the kidney. These are some of the most common:
* A high-protein, low-fiber diet
* Genetic predisposition to forming kidney stones
* An overactive parathyroid gland, which increases the risk of developing calcium stones
* Being a man aged between the age of 30 to 40
* Suffering from a disease or conditions affecting the small intestine
* A history of developing kidney stones
* Leading a sedentary lifestyle
* Contracting a kidney infection
* Suffering from certain kinds of cancer
* Undergoing chemotherapy
* Suffering from [gout](http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001459/), which affects the body’s ability to effectively break down chemicals
* Having only one kidney
* Frequently taking antacids and aspirin seem
Symptoms of Kidney Stones
These are some of the symptoms that people experience when they have kidney stones:
* There can be blood in the urine caused by the stone scratching tissue as it passes out of the body.
* The urine can also look a bit cloudy or have an unpleasant smell.
* The person may experience pain or discomfort when passing a kidney stone. If people have extreme pain at their back or sides, they may need to seek medical attention.
* The individual may experience fever and chills.
* There may be a burning sensation when urinating
* The person may experience nausea and vomiting.
* There may be a need to urinate more frequently.
* Feelings restless may set in.
[Renal colic](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renal_colic) occurs when a kidney stone begins to block the renal tract. The symptoms of this can include:
* Painful urination
* The need to urinate frequently
* Nausea and vomiting
Sometimes renal colic can lead to a kidney infection. The individual may then develop a high fever and generally appear unwell.
Alcohol and Kidneys Stones
[Excessive alcohol intake](http://alcoholrehab.com/alcohol-rehab/social-drinking-defined/) does not directly cause kidney stones, but it can certainly exacerbate the problem. The reason for this is that alcohol acts as a diuretic. This means that it causes people to pass so much urine that they can become dehydrated. Alcohol also interferes with the body’s [ability to excrete uric acid](http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=80834&page=2). Conversely, some studies suggest that [moderate intake of beer and wine](http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/kidneystonediet/) can offer some protection against stone formation. It is not recommended that people should consume alcohol in the hope of preventing these stones. This is particular important if people have ever had any [problems with alcohol in the past](http://alcoholrehab.com/alcohol-rehab/alcohol-abuse-alcohol-dependence/).
Treatment of Kidney Stones
In most instances, people will not require medical assistance for their kidneys stone. People can pass a small stone without even noticing any symptoms. In fact, most stones pass out of the body without any help. It is only when these stones are difficult to pass that the individual will usually seek help from a doctor. These are some of the available treatments for kidney stones:
* [Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL)](http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Kidney-stones/Pages/Treatment.aspx) is an effective treatment for large kidney stones. It involves using shock waves that pass through the body and break up the stone.
* Ureterorenoscopy may be required if a stone becomes trapped in the urinary tract. It involves passing a thin instrument called an ureteroscope through the urinary tract and using this to remove the stone.
* Sometimes it will be necessary to perform surgery. A cut will be made in the back of the individual so that the surgeon can pass an instrument through to the kidney and remove the stone. This type of treatment may be used for particular large stones or when dealing with an individual who is particularly obese.
How to Avoid Kidney Stones
These are some of the things that people can do to [avoid kidney stones](http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/Kudiseases/pubs/stones_ez/):
* Drink plenty of water, as this will help flush away the material that makes up the stone.
* Drink alcohol only in moderation
* Some kidneys stones occur as a result of poor diet. This indicates a need to change eating habits in order to prevent a reoccurrence. The exact dietary changes needed will depend on the type of stone. With this in mind, it is advisable to save a stone a stone that has been passed and show it to a physician. This will make it easier to determine the cause of the stone.
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