what can mimic kidney stones

What can mimic kidney stones?

Are there conditions that can mimic kidney stones? I bet there are and you will find out shortly. Kidney stones are small hard deposits or crystals that form in the kidneys and are mostly painful when passed out during urination. 

These stones are made up of minerals and acid salts that stick together in concentrated urine. When passed through the urinary tract, the individual experiences severe pain. 

Common symptoms of kidney stones include severe pain in the abdomen, nausea, pain in the back, vomiting, frequent urination, and so on. 

There are, however, instances where these symptoms are similar to that of other illnesses and thus, can be mistaken for kidney stones. 

In this article, we will discuss the diseases that are similar to or mimic the symptoms of kidney stones. Make sure to read to the end to find out all there is about this topic. 

Before we talk about the other diseases that can mimic kidney stones, we first need to know what kidney stones are, the types, and the causes. So, let’s start with that.

What are kidney stones?

Kidney stones are crystals or hard deposits made up of minerals and acid salts that stick together in concentrated urine. These crystals or hard deposits are found in the kidneys. 

They can also develop anywhere along your urinary tract which includes these parts: kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Kidney stones, therefore, present with a variety of symptoms. Hence conditions that may present similar symptoms are said to mimic kidney stones.

Not all kidney stones are made up of the same crystals. The different types of kidney stones include calcium, uric acid, struvite, and cystine.

What are the types of kidney stones?

The calcium type of kidney stones is the most common. They are mostly made up of calcium oxalate but can also consist of calcium phosphate or maleate.

Uric acid is the second most common type of kidney stone. This type of kidney stone can occur in people with problems such as obesity, gout, diabetes, and other types of metabolic syndrome. This type of stone develops when urine is too acidic.

Struvite is another type of kidney stone that is mostly found in people with urinary tract infections or UTIs. These stones can be huge and can cause urinary obstruction. Kidney infection mostly results in struvite and treating the underlying infection can prevent the development of struvite stones.

The cystine type of kidney stone occurs naturally in the body. This also comes about when acid leaks from the kidneys into the urine.

Signs and symptoms of kidney stones

Severe pain in the abdomen is the most common sign of kidney stones. For men, you may experience pain in the groin area.

Other symptoms of kidney stones include blood in the urine, nausea, pungent urine, vomiting, fever, chills, frequent need to urinate, and urinating small amounts of urine.

However, there are quite a number of conditions that may present with similar signs and symptoms and for that matter can be said to mimic kidney stones.

What are the causes of kidney stones?

There are many risk factors and causes of kidney stones some of which include:

  • Obesity
  • Dehydration
  • Diet with high amounts of protein, salt, and glucose
  • Hyper parathyroid condition
  • Gastric bypass surgery
  • Increase in calcium absorption caused by inflammatory bowel diseases
  • Medications such as triamterene diuretics, antiseizure drugs, and calcium-based antacids

Treatment of kidney stones

The treatment of kidney stones is done in relation to the type of kidney stones. 

Here are some treatment options for kidney stones

Ureteroscopy

This is an instrument used to remove kidney stones stuck in the ureter or bladder. It involves the use of a small wire with a camera attached that is inserted into the urethra and passed into the bladder. The doctor then uses a small cage to snag the stone and remove it. The stone is then sent to the laboratory for analysis.

Tunnel surgery 

This is a procedure whereby a small incision is made in your back in order to remove the stones. For this procedure to be done, the person must experience the following

  • If the stones are too big to pass out
  • If the pain cannot be managed
  • If the stone causes obstruction and infection
  • If the infection is damaging the kidneys. 

Medication

Medications such as acetaminophen, naproxen, ibuprofen, etc. are used for pain relief. If there is an infection, antibiotics will be used for treatment. 

Lithotripsy

Lithotripsy is a medical procedure used to treat certain types of kidney stones and stones in other organs, such as your gallbladder or liver. Sound waves are used to break up the big kidney stones in order for easy passage down the ureters and into your bladder.

This procedure can be uncomfortable and may require light anesthesia. It can cause bruising on the abdomen and back and bleeding around the kidney and nearby organs.

What other disease or illness can mimic kidney stones?

There are other diseases that mimic kidney stones. These conditions can be mistaken for kidney stones since they share similar symptoms. Some of these conditions include

Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

This is an infection in any part of the urinary system. Urinary tract infections are more common in women. They usually occur in the bladder or urethra, but more serious infections involve the kidney.

A bladder infection may cause pelvic pain, increased urge to urinate, pain with urination, and blood in the urine. A kidney infection may cause back pain, nausea, vomiting, and fever. These symptoms can be mistaken for kidney stones

Stomach flu virus

An intestinal infection marked by diarrhea, cramps, nausea, vomiting, and fever. Stomach flu is usually spread by contact with an infected person or through contaminated food or water.

Diarrhea, cramps, nausea, vomiting, and low-grade fever are common symptoms. These signs can also be mistaken for kidney stones. 

Appendicitis 

This is the inflammation of the appendix, which is located on the lower right side of the abdomen. Symptoms of this condition include sharp abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and migration of the pain to different parts of the lower abdomen. This is very similar to the symptoms presented by patients with kidney stones.

How long does it take to pass kidney stones?

The amount of time that it takes to pass a kidney stone can vary depending on the size of the stone. Small stones are able to pass through urine within the first 2 weeks, usually without treatment.

Larger stones may take up to 2 to 3 weeks to move through the kidneys and into the bladder.

Stones that don’t pass on their own within 4 weeks typically require medical treatment.

How to prevent kidney stones

Avoid dehydration. Keeping yourself well hydrated is a good way to prevent kidney stones. It is recommended to drink enough fluid to pass at least 2.5 of urine each day. [source]

Also eating foods rich in oxalate and reducing your salt intake can also lower your risk of getting kidney stones. 

The takeaway from this article

There are other diseases that have similar symptoms to kidney stones and as such, can be mistaken for kidney stones.

Therefore, proper diagnosis should be taken in order to know if it is really kidney stones that you are suffering from or other diseases such as appendicitis, urinary tract infections, or even the stomach flu or virus.

WRITTEN AND EDITED RESPECTIVELY BY:

Michael Sarfo
Content Creator at Wapomu

Michael Sarfo is a graduate of the University of Ghana, Legon. He is a content creator for enochkabange.com and a writer for Wapomu

Dr. Ehoneah Obed is a registered pharmacist and a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana. He has a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and has experience working in a Tertiary hospital as well as various community pharmacies. He is also a software engineer interested in healthcare technologies.

His love for helping others motivates him to create content on an array of topics mostly relating to the health of people and also software engineering content.

He is knowledgeable in digital marketing, content marketing, and a host of other skills that make him versatile enough to uplift any team he joins.

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