Renal lithiasis and nephrolithiasis are the technical names for what are commonly referred to as kidney stones. Kidney stones are concentrated mineral deposits, salts, and minerals that form inside a person’s kidneys.
Conditions that result in a person’s urine becoming concentrated and allowing the substances in urine, such as salts and minerals, to crystallize can lead to the development of kidney stones. This includes chronically using diuretics, forcing an individual to urinate frequently, resulting in higher concentrations of salt and minerals inside the kidneys. Some level of crystallization is relatively common. The symptoms of kidney stones typically do not present unless the symptoms become severe and chronic.
Symptoms of Kidney Stones
Most often, kidney stones are asymptomatic until they begin to move around within the kidney or until a person begins to pass them through the ureter (the tube-like connection between the kidney and bladder). Once this happens, people may begin to experience certain symptoms.
- Severe pain often occurs in the back, side, lower abdomen to the groin, or during urination.
- The pain often fluctuates and may be exacerbated when a person moves, resulting in the stone moving into the urinary tract.
- Changes in urination often occur, such as red, brown, or pink urine. Cloudy or very strong and foul-smelling urine is common.
- The person may frequently urinate, have a frequent desire to urinate, or experience frequent urination in very small amounts.
- Nausea, vomiting, and significant lower abdomen distress are common.
- If the stone become infected, individuals may experience fevers, chills, and other generalized symptoms that appear to mimic the flu.
In most cases, passing kidney stones can be extremely painful but may not cause any permanent damage if the situation is recognized. Remaining hydrated and using pain medications can assist in the process. If kidney stones become lodged in the urinary tract, surgery may be required to remove them.
Alcohol and Kidney Stones
There is no direct evidence that alcohol use causes the formation of kidney stones. However, alcohol is a diuretic, and individuals who drink large amounts of alcohol often urinate frequently. Heavy alcohol use can lead to dehydration, and dehydration can speed up the formation of kidney stones by increasing the concentration of the minerals in the kidneys as a result of water loss. In cases where a person already has kidney stones, use of alcohol can increase the discomfort associated with them.
Individuals who are diagnosed with kidney stones and suffering discomfort from them would be advised not to drink significant amounts of alcohol. People with alcohol use disorders may be in an increased risk for the discomfort associated with kidney stones. If they already have kidney stones, they may be at an increased risk to develop complications with them that may result in surgery.
However,individuals who chronically use and abuse alcohol should not wait for health issues like those associated with kidney stones to motivate them to receive treatment. The benefits of treatment for alcohol use disorder are many, reaching into every area of life.