Struvite: The Less Common Type of Kidney Stone
The word “stevie” comes from the French words “stéviseur”, which means doctor or surgeon. A stone is a hard, rounded mass of mineral material formed when calcium carbonate (calcium hydroxide) crystals aggregate together. They’re usually composed of many small pieces called crenulations. These crenulations form because they contain tiny pockets of air trapped between them.
When the crenulations get too big, they cause the calcium carbonate crystals to break apart into smaller fragments. These fragments then become airborne and can travel through your blood stream and lodge themselves in your kidneys.
Kidney stones are common in people with high levels of acidity in their urine. People with kidney disease have higher rates of developing kidney stones than those without it. Kidney stones occur most often during periods of stress such as pregnancy, menopause, or after surgery.
Causes of Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are caused by excess amounts of minerals like calcium and magnesium in the body. Calcium is found naturally in foods like milk, cheese, eggs, spinach, broccoli and other leafy greens; while magnesium is found naturally in foods like almonds, bananas and some types of fruit. When you eat these foods or take supplements containing them, your body absorbs them into your bloodstream where they build up inside your bones. The build up of these minerals in your bones is called supersaturation.
This can lead to the formation of kidney stones.
Calcium can also bind in the kidneys with oxalate. Oxalate is a substance that is found naturally in certain foods such as rhubarb and spinach. When these bind, they create calcium oxalate kidney stones. These are the most common type of kidney stones.
If your oxalate is low, then the supersaturation can be caused by other minerals like uric acid or cystine. These types of stones are called uric acid stones and cystine stones.
Your body normally passes most of the minerals which make up kidney stones in your urine. If there is an increase in the amount of these minerals, then the urine will turn more acidic and start to become more acidic. When this happens, the minerals will start to stick together and make stones.
Some medical conditions can increase your risk of developing kidney stones. These conditions include: prostate problems, urinary tract infections, hyperparathyroidism, primary hyperoxaluria, and liver disease among others.
Who gets kidney stones?
Kidney stones can affect both men and women of all ages but they are more common in men than women. Most people get kidney stones before they reach the age of 20 but they can also develop them during middle age. The condition of having a kidney stone in your bladder or kidneys is called nephrolithiasis.
A lot of children get kidney stones but they are less likely to get them as an adult. However, some adults can get one without ever having a single one when they were younger.
Kidney stone pain is a lot more common in adults than children. This is because children tend to pass smaller stones which don’t have a chance to give them much pain before they are passed.
Kidney stones are more common in adults than children. This is because the amount of minerals found in a child’s body is different to that of an adult. In adults, these minerals can easily turn into kidney stones. The condition of having a kidney stone stuck in your bladder or inside one of your kidneys is called nephrolithiasis.
Who is at risk of getting a kidney stone?
There are many people who are at risk of getting a kidney stone. Some people can get them even if they have no known risk factors. Risk factors for developing kidney stones include:
a) Obesity: Obesity is one of the biggest risk factors in developing kidney stones. People who weigh more are more likely to be diagnosed with this condition than people who weigh less. The heavier you are, the more likely you are to pass larger and more stones which are more painful when they come out.
b) Certain drugs: Some drugs can increase your risk of developing kidney stones. These drugs include: diuretics (water pills), chemotherapy drugs, and retinoids (a form of vitamin A). If you are taking any of these drugs and you experience pain in your side or find blood in your urine, then you should tell your doctor immediately.
c) Family history: If kidney stones run in your family, then you are more likely to get them.
d) Certain diet: Some people have a higher ratio of certain minerals in their diet. These people are more likely to get kidney stones because their body absorbs too much of one type of mineral. Some foods which have a higher concentration of certain minerals include: asparagus, lentils, tofu, and some types of cheese.
e) Urinary tract abnormalities: Some people are born with an abnormality in their urinary tract which causes them to develop kidney stones more easily.
f) Lack of liquids: Not drinking enough liquids can cause your urine to become too concentrated which increases the risk of developing kidney stones.
What are the symptoms of a kidney stone?
The most common symptom of a kidney stone is pain. This pain usually occurs suddenly. The pain can last from a few hours to a few days. It commonly occurs in the:
a) Lower back
d) Testicles in men
e) Under the rib cage (the pain feels similar to heart pain).
Other symptoms of a kidney stone include: nausea, vomiting, and fever.
What causes kidney stones?
Kidney stones are caused by a build-up of minerals in the urine. Normally, the urine is acidic which causes dissolved minerals to come out of solution. If the urine is too concentrated, then some types of minerals will not come out of solution and they will settle on the bottom of the urinary tract.
The exact reason why these minerals do not come out of solution is not well understood in medical science. Some factors that may contribute to the development of kidney stones include diet, overall health, and family history.
How are kidney stones diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you about your medical history and do a physical examination. You may also have blood tests and imaging tests to see any other medical problems that may be causing your pain. Imaging tests can include an x-ray, computerized tomography (CT) scan, or intravenous pyelogram (IVP).
What is the treatment for kidney stones?
Treatment will depend on many factors including the size and location of the stone, your age, and your general health. Your doctor will determine the best course of treatment for you after examining you and reviewing all other medical problems that you have.
Most kidney stones do not require any treatment. They pass out of the body all by themselves within few days. If the pain is severe, your doctor may give you medication to help relieve the pain.
Sources & references used in this article:
Struvite stones by JS Rodman – Nephron, 1999 – karger.com
Treatment options in struvite stones by LP Wang, HY Wong, DP Griffith – Urologic Clinics of North America, 1997 – Elsevier
Renal struvite stones—pathogenesis, microbiology, and management strategies by R Flannigan, WH Choy, B Chew, D Lange – Nature reviews Urology, 2014 – nature.com
Absence of bacterial imprints on struvite-containing kidney stones: a structural investigation at the mesoscopic and atomic scale by D Bazin, G André, R Weil, G Matzen, V Emmanuel… – Urology, 2012 – Elsevier
Reduced glomerular filtration rate and hypercalciuria in primary struvite nephrolithiasis by C Kristensen, JH Parks, M Lindheimer, FL Coe – Kidney International, 1987 – Elsevier
Struvite stones: diagnosis and current treatment concepts by MT GETTMAN, JW SEGURA – Journal of endourology, 1999 – liebertpub.com