Uric acid kidney stones are one of the four main types of kidney stones. They are “clumps” that form together from excessive uric acid crystals in the body. While this condition can sometimes be quite painful, in other cases, the patient may be completely unaware of the condition and experience no symptoms. Treatment can range from modifying one's diet and liquid intake to using sound wave therapy to surgery, in more extreme cases. In most instances, the patient will pass the stones out of his body while urinating.
This condition can be caused by several different factors. Uric acid kidney stones may form when a person is dehydrated. They may also be a complication of gout, which is a disease that increases the levels of uric acid. Other risk factors include a family history of the condition, obesity, and having a digestive disease. Men are also more likely to suffer from kidney stones.
A patient may also develop uric acid kidney stones if he eats a high amount of food that contains purines. Purines are a substance that, when broken down by the body, forms uric acid. Meat is a common source of purines.
Symptoms of uric acid kidney stones may range from mild to severe. As the stone moves from the kidneys toward the bladder, a person may experience pain that can be severe. The pain will often be located in the lower abdomen and groin or in the side and the lower back.
Other signs include nausea, vomiting, and a frequent urge to urinate. Urine also may appear brown, pink, or red, and patients may have a fever and chills. These symptoms require a doctor's urgent care.
The doctor may order a blood test, urinalysis, or imaging tests to diagnose uric acid kidney stones. If the patient has passed a stone while urinating, the physician will need to analyze it. Solid formations in the urine may be caught with a strainer placed in the toilet.
If the physician determines that the kidney stones are small and the patient does not experience severe symptoms, treatment should not be invasive. Patients typically are advised to drink plenty of water. An over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen, also may be taken to alleviate discomfort while passing stones.
Larger and more painful uric acid kidney stones may be broken up internally. This is done by the use of a machine that produces sound waves. The sound waves break the stones into smaller pieces so the patient can pass them.
Less commonly, a patient may need to undergo surgery. Percutaneous nephrolithotomy is a surgical procedure in which the kidney stone is removed through an incision. Another technique, which does not need an incision, requires the surgeon to pass an instrument up through the bladder. He will then either remove the stone or break it into smaller pieces.
A patient who has experienced uric acid kidney stones may be more likely to develop them again. To help prevent this condition, people often are advised to drink plenty of water and to reduce purines in their diet. A doctor may also prescribe a medication that is helpful for reducing uric acid levels.