Kidney stones are crystal like hard substances formed within the urinary system, which are often scientifically termed as Nephrolithasis. These stones are formed due to decrease in urine volume or accumulation of unwanted toxic substances. Dehydration is the major cause of occurrence of kidney stones. Renal Calculi have a highly distant physical appearance. Other primary causes are dietary habits, metabolic disorders, genetics, certain medications, and specific medical conditions.
Kidney stones are of variable sizes. They range from small crystals (small kidney stones) to large sized stones (large kidney stones) such as the size of a golf ball. Variations in sizes of kidney stones affect the following things:
The size of kidney stones affect the treatment method required for their removal. Small-sized stones can easily pass through the kidney without any medical assistance but large-sized stones require medical intervention. Certain tests are conducted which help in determining the size of kidney stones, such as KUB, an Ultrasound or an IVP. They help in analyzing which treatment should be effective for the removal of your kidney stones.
“According to the National Kidney Foundation, it is estimated that one in ten people will have a kidney stone sometime in their lives. The prevalence of kidney stones has increased significantly in the United States from 3.8% in the late 1970s to about 9% in the 2000s. The lifetime risk of developing kidney stones is about 19% in men and 10% in women.”
The size of kidney stones determine the time needed for their removal from the kidneys. Smaller the size of a stone, the faster it can pass through the urinary tract. For example, a 2mm stones may pass through the kidneys in about 12 days but stones of size 4mm can take about 30 days to pass out.
Read about passing of the kidney stones in urine.
The size of the stones can also indicate the compounds they are made of. Kidney stones can have a variety of compositions such as calcium, uric acid, struvite and cystine stones. They are formed by deposition of toxic compounds in the kidneys. An increased deposition of toxic compounds may result in the formation of large-sized kidney stones, which can cause blockage in the urine path.
Here is a chart that indicates the types of kidney stones and their shapes/sizes.
|Type of stones||Incidence rate||Shape||Cause||Clinical risk factors|
|Calcium oxalate||About 80%||Envelop||Increased calcium and oxalate in urine||Higher chances in middle age men than women|
|Calcium phosphate||< 5%||Amorphous||Increased calcium and pH||Hyperparathyroidism and renal tubular acidosis|
|Uric acid||About 10%||Diamond or rhomboid||Increased uric acid and pH of urine||Gout and diabetes mellitus|
|Struvite||About 10%||Coffin-lid||Increased pH of urine||Neurogenic bladder and other anatomic abnormality|
|Cystine||< 1%||Hexagonal||Rare genetic disorder: increased cystine in urine|
Kidney stones of less than 5mm are categorized as small. Small kidney stones can easily pass through the urinary tract without any medical assistance. 4mm sized stones have 80% chances to pass through the kidneys in about a month, but 5mm size stones have 60% chances of passage in about 45 days.
To pass small-sized kidney stones naturally in urine, certain home remedies can be helpful such as increased fluid intake, increased water, lemon and citrus juice consumption and low salt, calcium and protein diet. High water concentration does not allow growth of kidney stones and they can slowly pass along with the urine. Read about passing of kidney stones with urine.
If you experience any pain in the lower abdomen during passing of the kidney stones, you can take an analgesic such as ibuprofen or any other painkiller as suggested by the doctor. Painkillers help in relieving pain and also speed up the process of passing the stone. Read about relieving kidney pain.
Early Signs of Passing Kidney Stones
Kidney stones often cause extreme pain while they pass via urine; however, all kidney stones are not painful. Some kidney stones present noticeable symptoms while they are passed and therefore give a clear indication that you need to visit a doctor. Some of the early signs of passing kidney stones are mentioned below:
Nausea and Vomiting
One of the early signs of passing kidney stones is nausea and vomiting. Passing kidney stones make people sick, followed by excruciating pain. The pain usually radiates from the right side of the abdomen and may be misinterpreted as appendicitis.
Blood in the Urine
Passing red or pinkish colored urine can be alarming if you are suffering from kidney stones. However, certain foods like beetroots may also cause red-colored urine. However, whatever the reason, you should get yourself checked as soon as you observe pink or red-colored urine. Passing blood along with urine may indicate serious problems involving the bladder, kidneys, prostrate.
Foul Smelling or Cloudy Urine
The presence of stones in your kidneys makes your urine more concentrated. The kidney stones are caused due to crystallization of concentrated minerals and make the urine cloudier, stinky, and darker. The strong or foul smell is often compared with ammonia, but it may be due to a urinary infection rather than just a kidney stone.
Difficulty With Urine Flow
Kidney stones may obstruct the urine flow and may lead to extreme pain. If the stone passes down into the bladder, the person may often feel an urgency to pee, followed by painful urination. In some rare cases, kidney stones can even be on both sides and, therefore, may completely stop the urine flow, resulting in a medical emergency.
High Fever and Chills
Some people show symptoms of fever, shivering, and chills while they are suffering from kidney stones. Patients should not be ignore such symptoms, and should immediately seek medical attention. Such symptoms can be a sign of kidney or urinary tract infection.
Can Kidney Stones Be Genetic? (Hereditary)
Kidney stones can indeed have a genetic component. While factors like diet, dehydration, medications, and specific medical conditions play roles in stone formation, there’s also a hereditary aspect. If family members, especially first-degree relatives, have had kidney stones, your risk might increase. Rare genetic conditions, such as Cystinuria, Primary hyperoxaluria, and Dent’s disease, significantly heighten the likelihood of stone development. However, it’s crucial to understand that environmental and lifestyle factors are significant contributors too. Adequate hydration and dietary modifications can help mitigate the risk. If kidney stones are a concern or if they’re prevalent in your family, consulting with a urologist or nephrologist is advisable.
Have you ever wondered how big are kidney stones? Stones of > 5mm size are considered as large kidney stones.
Large-sized stones cannot pass through the kidneys without any medical intervention. If they are left to pass on their own, they may take longer time, about a year or more than that and there is a risk of complications. Large sized stones may get struck in the urinary tract and cause extreme pain and bleeding during urination.
The methods involved in the removal of large-sized kidney stones are as follows:
Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL)
Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy is the most common method for the treatment of stones which cannot pass through the urine. This involves administration of ultrasound (high-frequency sound waves), which results in breakdown of the stones into smaller pieces so they can easily pass along with urine.
Ureteroscopy is also known as retrograde intrarenal surgery (RIS). When large-sized kidney stones get stuck in the ureter, ureteroscopy may be carried out.
This involves inserting a ureterscope (long, thin telescope) through urethra into the bladder, to the site where the stone got struck in the ureter. Your surgeon may remove the stone using another instrument or by laser energy, which breaks the stone into smaller pieces and allow it to pass naturally through the kidneys.
Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL)
Percutaneous nephrolithotomy is suitable for removal of extremely large-sized stones and for obese people. This involves passing a nephroscope (thin telescopic instrument) into the kidneys through a small incision in the back. The stone is then either pulled out or broken into small pieces by pneumatic energy.
Open surgery is carried out in rare cases, either when you have a huge stone or abnormal anatomy. This involves an incision to be made in the back to provide access to your ureter or kidneys from where the stone can be easily removed.
Kidney stones vary in sizes. Therefore, as discussed above, the composition, their treatment and removal, time they take in passing through the urine, and their other characteristics may also vary based on their sizes. A kidney stone size chart is an easy way to tabulate and illustrate the important pieces of information about one or more of these factors associated with varying sizes of kidney stones.
A kidney stone size chart may show a correlation between possible treatment options and various sizes of the kidney stone. Another type of a kidney stone size chart may show correlation between kidney stone sizes and their compositions and so on.
This is a simple kidney stone size chart that provides important information about the chances of passing stones naturally, time taken, and treatment required for various sizes of the kidney stones. More types of kidney stone charts can be possible to show different types of information pieces about kidney stones and their sizes.
|Size of kidney stones||Chances of passing naturally||Time required to pass naturally||Treatment|
|Less than 2mm||About 80%||8 days (average)||Home remedies|
|2-4 mm||About 80%||12 days (average)||Home remedies|
|4mm||About 80%||31 days (average)||Home remedies|
|4-7mm||About 60%||45 days (average)||Home remedies and painkiller|
|Larger than 7mm||About 20%||12 months (average)||Ureteroscopy|
|Larger than 2cm||Cannot pass||Percutaneous nephrolithotomy|