What are kidney stones?

Kidney stones are small pieces of crystallized material that become trapped in the kidneys, bladder, or urinary tract. A kidney stone can be extremely painful and the patient may not be able to pass it without help. There are a variety of treatments available to treat kidney stones, also known as kidney stones, and pain relievers are also available to help people deal with the pain involved.

Around one in 10 people will experience a kidney stone at some point in life. Several things seem to increase the risk of developing kidney stones, including dehydration, diet, and certain medical conditions, such as gout, diabetes, high blood pressure, and irritable bowel disease. In all cases, calculus forms when minerals that would normally naturally precipitate conglomerate to form a crystallized mass that can vary in size.

A small kidney stone can pass quite successfully, sometimes with the patient only becoming aware of the problem as the stone moves down the ureter, into the bladder, and out of the urethra. In other cases, such as large staghorn stones that can grow quite large, the kidney stone can cause extreme pain but will not move on its own. Large kidney stones must be removed with medical assistance, whether that assistance takes the form of a stent inserted to allow the stone to fall out naturally, or surgery to remove the stone by hand.

Humans have been dealing with kidney stones for a long time, and lithotomy, the removal of kidney stones, is one of the oldest known surgical procedures. The pain would have been considerable in times before anesthesia, and complicated by an imperfect understanding of the internal anatomy, but often the pain from the stone itself was so intense that patients were willing to take the risk. With the 20th century came the development of a number of painless and low-pain techniques, including things like extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, in which stones are broken up with ultrasound for the body to pass through.

People usually know when a kidney stone is present, because it causes a distinctive cramping and colicky pain, especially if it leaves the kidney and enters the urinary tract. Difficulty urinating, blood in the urine, and extreme pain in the lower abdomen are common symptoms. The stone can be diagnosed by a doctor with the help of medical imaging, and the doctor can make treatment recommendations based on the size and position of the stone.

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