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Kidney Stones in Adults


Kidney stones, one of the most painful of the urologic disorders, are not a product of modern life. Scientists have found evidence of kidney stones in a 7,000-year-old Egyptian mummy. Unfortunately, kidney stones are one of the most common disorders of the urinary tract. In 2000,patients made 2.7 million visits to health care providers and more than 600,000 patients went to emergency rooms for kidney stone problems. Men tend to be affected more frequently than women.
Most kidney stones pass out of the body without any intervention by a physician. Stones that cause lasting symptoms or other complications may be treated by various techniques ,most of which do not involve major surgery. Also, research advances have led to a better understanding of the many factors that promote stone formation.
Introduction to the Urinary Tract

The urinary tract

The urinary tract, or system, consists of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located below the ribs toward the middle of the back. The kidneys remove extra water and wastes from the blood, converting it to urine. They also keep astable balance of salts and other substances in the blood. The kidneys produce hormones that help build strong bones and help form red blood cells.

Narrow tubes called ureters carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder, a noval-shaped chamber in the lower abdomen. Like a balloon, the bladder's elastic walls stretch and expand to store urine. They flatten together when urine is emptied through the urethra to outside the body.

What is a kidneystone?

A kidney 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.

Kidney stones may contain various combinations of chemicals. The most common type of stone contains calcium in combination with either oxalate or phosphate. These chemicals are part of a person's normal diet and make up important parts of the body, such as bones and muscles.

A less common type of stone is caused by infection in the urinary tract. This type of stone is called a struvite or infection stone. A bit less common is the uric acid stone. Cystine stones are rare.

Illustration of kidney stones in kidney, ureter, and bladder
Kidney stones in kidney, ureter, and bladder

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 ofthe stone in the urinary tract. For example, a ureteral stone (or ureterolithiasis) is a kidneystone found in the ureter. To keep things simple, however, the term "kidney stones" is used throughout this fact sheet.

Gallstones and kidney stones are not related. They form in different areas of the body. If you have a gallstone, you are not necessarily more likely to develop kidney stones.

Who gets kidneystones?

For unknown reasons, the number of people in the United States with kidneystones has been increasing over the past 30 years.The prevalence of stone-forming disease rose from3.8 percent in the late 1970s to 5.2 percent in thelate 1980s and early 1990s. White Americans are more prone to develop kidney stones than African Americans. Stones occur more frequently in men. The prevalence of kidney stones rises dramatically as men enter their 40s and continues to rise into their70s. For women, the prevalence of kidney stones peaks in their 50s. Once a person gets more than one stone, others are likely to develop.

What causes kidneystones?

Doctors do not always know what causes a stone to form. While certain foods may promote stone formation in people who are susceptible, scientists do not believe that eating any specific food causes stones to form in people who are not susceptible.

A person with a family history of kidney stones may be more likely to develop stones. Urinary tract infections, kidney disorders such as cystic kidney diseases, and certain metabolic disorders such as hyperparathyroidism are also linked to stone formation.

In addition, more than 70percent of people with a rare hereditary disease called renal tubular acidosis develop kidney stones.

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