Every day your kidneys process about 400 pints of blood to remove 4 pints of waste products and excess water in the form of urine. If the salts and minerals within the urine crystallise then they form ‘kidney stones’. Kidney stones are not a product of modern life. Scientists have found evidence of kidney stones in a 7,000-year-old Egyptian mummy. Once a stone is formed in the kidney it can either stay where it is or it can move out of the kidney down into the ureter. Some small ureteric stones are passed without complication but the larger the stone the more likely it is to cause pain or obstruction.
A urinary tract stone is a hard mass developed from crystals that separate from the urine and build up on the inner surfaces of the kidney. Normally, urine contains chemicals that prevent or inhibit the crystals from forming. These inhibitors do not seem to work for everyone, however, so some people form stones. If the crystals remain tiny enough, they will travel through the urinary tract and pass out of the body in the urine without being noticed. Most kidney stones pass out of the body without any intervention by a physician.
Kidney stones may contain various combinations of chemicals.These chemicals are part of a person's normal diet and make up important parts of the body, such as bones and muscles.
There are four major types of kidney stones.
The most common type of stone contains calcium (KAL-see-um). Calcium is a normal part of a healthy diet.
Calcium that is not used by the bones and muscles goes to the kidneys. In most people, the kidneys flush out the extra calcium with the rest of the urine. People who have calcium stones keep the calcium in their kidneys.
The calcium that stays behind joins with other waste products to form a stone.
A struvite (STROO-vite) stone may form after an infection in the urinary system. These stones contain the mineral magnesium (mag-NEE-zee-um) and the waste product ammonia (uh-MOH-nyuh).
A uric (YOOR-ik) acid stone may form when there is too much acid in the urine. If you tend to form uric acid stones, you may need to cut back on the amount of meat you eat.
Cystine (SIS-teen) stones are rare. Cystine is one of the building blocks that make up muscles, nerves, and other parts of the body. Cystine can build up in the urine to form a stone. The disease that causes cystine stones runs in families.
Urolithiasis is the medical term used to describe stones occurring in the urinary tract. Other frequently used terms are urinary tract stone disease and nephrolithiasis. Doctors also use terms that describe the location of the stone in the urinary tract. For example, a ureteric stone (or ureterolithiasis) is a kidney stone that has moved into the ureter.