Kidney Stone (cont.)

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What is a kidney stone?

A kidney stone is a hard, crystalline mineral material formed within the kidney or urinary tract. Kidney stones are a common cause of blood in the urine (hematuria) and often severe pain in the abdomen, flank, or groin. Kidney stones are sometimes called renal calculi.

The condition of having kidney stones is termed nephrolithiasis. Having stones at any location in the urinary tract is referred to as urolithiasis, and the term ureterolithiasis is used to refer to stones located in the ureters.

Who is at risk for kidney stones?

Anyone may develop a kidney stone, but people with certain diseases and conditions (see below) or those who are taking certain medications are more susceptible to their development. Urinary tract stones are more common in men than in women. It is estimated that about 12% of men and 7% of women in the U.S. will develop stones in the urinary tract at some point in their lives. About 20 million people seek medical care each year because of kidney stones. Most urinary stones develop in people 20-49 years of age, and those who are prone to multiple attacks of kidney stones usually develop their first stones during the second or third decade of life. People who have already had more than one kidney stone are prone to developing further stones.

In residents of industrialized countries, kidney stones are more common than stones in the bladder. The opposite is true for residents of developing areas of the world, where bladder stones are the most common. This difference is believed to be related to dietary factors. People who live in the southern or southwestern regions of the U.S. have a higher rate of kidney stone formation than those living in other areas. Over the last few decades, the percentage of people with kidney stones in the U.S. has been increasing; the reason for this is not well understood.

A family history of kidney stones is also a risk factor for developing kidney stones. Kidney stones are more common in Asians and Caucasians than in Native Americans, Africans, or African Americans.

Uric acid kidney stones are more common in people with chronically elevated uric acid levels in their blood (hyperuricemia).

A small number of pregnant women (about one out of every 1,500-3,000 pregnancies) develop kidney stones, and there is some evidence that pregnancy-related changes may increase the risk of stone formation. Factors that may contribute to stone formation during pregnancy include a slowing of the passage of urine due to increased progesterone levels and diminished fluid intake due to a decreasing bladder capacity from the enlarging uterus. Healthy pregnant women also have a mild increase in their urinary calcium excretion. However, it remains unclear whether the changes of pregnancy are directly responsible for kidney stone formation or if these women have another underlying factor that predisposes them to kidney stone formation.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/1/2013

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