According to the National Institutes of Health, nephrolitiasis, or kidney stone formation, is a very common disease, affecting nearly one in 10 people during their lifetimes. Between seven and 10 of every 1,000 hospital admissions are related to kidney stones. People who have a family history of kidney stones, those who live in areas with soft water and those who are frequently dehydrated are at higher risk of stone formation. Kidney stones have a number of unpleasant side effects.
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Renal colic is an excruciating pain that develops when a kidney stone passes through the ureter. It is typically a sharp, cramp-like pain that develops on one side of the back and radiates around to the abdomen. It sometimes spreads into the groin area as well. This severe pain may be accompanied by a burning or urgency during urination, nausea and vomiting, or blood in the urine.
As the stone passes through the ureter, it may block the passage of urine from the kidney to the bladder. This back up of urine is called obstruction, and it may occur without any pain. Usually, the kidney blockage is only temporary and is relieved as the kidney stone passes through. If the blockage persists, it may lead to infection or kidney failure.
Kidney stones can cause infection, particularly if the stone is blocking the flow of urine. Fever, often with flank pain, is a sign of potential kidney infection. Kidney infections can be very dangerous and must be treated right away. Intravenous antibiotics and placement of a tube to drain the blocked kidney will help the kidney infection to resolve safely. Some stones, called struvite stones, are actually caused by kidney infections and require a different treatment strategy.
Kidney stones occasionally cause kidney failure. Stones that are larger, stones that cause blockages or infection, and stones that recur frequently are all more likely to cause develop this very serious complication. For this reason, it is important to follow doctor's recommendations aimed at preventing future stone formation.
A common complication of kidney stone formation is recurrence of stones over time. As stones continue to form, the likelihood of more side effects increases. A proper diagnosis of the cause of the stone formation will lead to a more effective prevention of recurrent stones.