What are crystals in a urine test?
Unless you are a medical expert, your urine is probably something that you give little thought to – but did you know that certain medical conditions can result in the formation of crystals within your urine?
We took a closer look at the causes and symptoms of this, as well as the connection that this can have to more serious conditions – including issues with your kidneys.
Crystalluria is a condition where crystals form in the urinary tract. This happens when certain minerals or salts precipitate out of the solution and accumulate in the kidneys.
The crystals usually appear in the urine, but they can also show up in other bodily fluids such as blood, tears, saliva, sweat, semen, breast milk, vaginal secretions, and stool.
Crystalluria occurs when calcium oxalate stones form in the kidney. They can cause excruciating pain, and sometimes even block the flow of urine completely.
If left untreated, these stones can eventually become large enough to damage the kidneys, known as kidney stones
There are several types of crystalluria, each caused by a different mineral. Some crystals are harmless, while others can cause serious health problems.
Knowing the type of crystalluria can help doctors diagnose the problem and prescribe treatment.
Types Of Crystalluria
There are a number of different types of crystalluria, and these include:
Calcium Oxalate (CaOx) Stones
These are the most common type of stones found in the human body.
Calcium oxalate stones occur when excess amounts of calcium and oxalic acid combine with water to form small particles.
These particles then aggregate together into larger masses called calculi and can occur in the urinary tract or the kidney.
Calcium Phosphate Stones
These are formed when calcium phosphate combines with water to form tiny crystalline structures.
When this happens, it’s known as struvite. It’s often associated with urinary tract infections.
Calcium Carbonate Stones
These are made from calcium carbonate, which forms when carbon dioxide gas combines with water. Carbonates tend to be more common than phosphates or oxalates.
Uric Acid Stones
Uric acid stones are made from uric acid, which is produced naturally by the body. In some people, however, too much uric acid builds up in their bodies.
That causes them to produce more uric acid, which accumulates in the bladder and kidneys.
Cystine stones are made from cysteine, an amino acid that’s present in many foods. People who have cystinuria will excrete excessive amounts of cysteine in their urine.
Hematite stones are made from iron oxide, which is commonly found in soil. Hematite stones are very rare, but if they do form, they’re typically small and light-colored.
Treatment Options For Crystalluria
The best way to treat any kind of crystalluria is to prevent it from happening again.
You should try to avoid things like caffeine, alcohol, and spicy food because these substances increase the risk of forming crystals.
Other factors that may contribute to crystalluria include diet, exercise, genetics, and medication use.
If you’ve already developed a stone, there are two main treatments available. One option involves removing the stone surgically.
Another approach uses medications to dissolve the stone.
If your doctor suspects that you might have a kidney stone, he or she will perform surgery to remove the stone.
During this procedure, the surgeon cuts the affected area and removes the stone using special tools.
This method is usually effective at removing small stones, but it won’t work well on large ones.
Medications can also be used to dissolve kidney stones. There are three main classes of drugs that doctors use to treat kidney stones: citrate, thiazide diuretics, and alpha-blockers.
Each class has its advantages and disadvantages.
Citrates are chemicals that bind to calcium ions in the blood and help lower the amount of calcium in the urine.
They’re sometimes prescribed to patients with high levels of calcium in their blood. The downside to citrates is that they don’t always get rid of all the calcium in the urine.
Thiazides are a group of medications that cause the kidneys to release sodium and chloride ions.
As a result, the concentration of fluid inside the cells increases, causing the cells to swell.
This process helps flush out the calcium in the urine and prevents the formation of new stones. However, thiazides aren’t recommended for everyone.
If you take them, you’ll need to drink plenty of fluids to keep your electrolytes balanced.
Alpha-blockers are prescription medications that relax muscles throughout the body. These drugs act as natural antihypertensives (blood pressure medicines).
When combined with other medications, alpha-blockers can reduce the likelihood of developing kidney stones.
Although most cases of these types of stones and crystals can be treated successfully, some people develop recurrent stones.
In such instances, medical professionals often recommend surgical removal of the stone.
Who Gets Crystals In Their Urine?
Crystalluria occurs when crystalline deposits form in the urinary tract. Although many people experience this condition, only about 1 percent of adults actually have kidney stones.
Kidney stones occur more frequently in men than women, and they tend to affect people between the ages of 30 and 60 years old.
Fortunately, most people who have kidney stones eventually pass the stones naturally.
What Causes Crystalluria?
The exact causes of crystalluria remain unknown. Some experts believe that certain foods and beverages can trigger crystal formations in the bladder.
For example, coffee contains caffeine, which can irritate the lining of the bladder.
Other researchers think that genetics may play a role in determining whether someone develops kidney stones.
People with family members who have had kidney stones are more likely to develop them themselves, and any crystals in the urine develop into more serious kidney stones.
What Are Crystals In Urine Tests?
If you suspect you have crystals in your urine, your doctor will perform a urinalysis to confirm the diagnosis.
The procedure involves collecting a sample of your urine and examining it under a microscope.
Your doctor will look at your urine sediment to determine what type of crystals are present. He or she will also check for bacteria and other signs of infections.
How Is A Crystals Test Performed?
A urinalysis requires no special equipment. All you need is a clean container and a clean stream.
It’s best to collect your urine first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything.
Then, place the collected urine in a sterile container. If possible, avoid using containers that contain preservatives or artificial sweeteners.
Your doctor will usually examine your urine under a microscope after it has been diluted with water. Diluting the urine makes it easier for the eye to see the crystals.
To dilute the urine, add one part of water to three parts of urine. Stir well until all the crystals dissolve.
After adding the water, put the mixture on a slide and cover it with a coverslip.
Place the covered slide in front of a light source so that you can view the crystals through the microscope.
Your doctor will be able to identify the crystals by looking at the shape, size, color, and number of each particle.
He or she will then compare the results from your test with those of others who have similar types of crystals in their urine.
This helps your doctor determine whether you have an underlying condition that could cause the crystals.
When Should I Get A Crystals Test Done?
Most people who have crystals in their urine will not notice anything abnormal. You might just find a few white specks or small particles floating in the urine.
But if you do notice something unusual in your urine, it’s important to tell your doctor right away. Here are some symptoms of crystals in the urine:
Many doctors recommend getting a urinalysis only when you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Pain in the side or back (especially during micturition)
- Blood in your urine
These symptoms suggest that there may be something that requires further analysis and checking by a medical professional, and so it is a good idea to have a test done to ensure that there is nothing more serious going on within your body.
Urine Crystals And Kidney Problems
You should get tested as soon as you notice any of these symptoms because they can indicate kidney problems. Kidneys play a crucial role in maintaining normal health.
When the kidneys fail, they cannot filter out waste products such as urea nitrogen, and creatinine.
This causes them to become damaged and eventually stop working altogether. As a result, the levels of these substances rise in the bloodstream.
The presence of abnormal amounts of sodium chloride in the urine is another sign that the kidneys are not functioning properly.
In fact, this is the most common reason why people get tested for urine crystals.
People with high blood pressure often develop kidney stones. These stones form when minerals and salts accumulate in the kidneys.
What Happens If Your Kidneys Are Damaged?
Left untreated, crystals in your urine can result in damage to the kidney, and this can have a number of long-term consequences, including:
One of the most serious consequences of kidney stones that are not treated correctly or in time can be kidney failure.
The kidneys are responsible for filtering toxins and excess fluids from the blood, and also help maintain the acid/base balance in the body.
If the kidneys do not work properly, they will not function normally and the level of acids and bases in the blood will increase.
This can lead to serious illness if left untreated.
If the kidneys are not working properly, bacteria can enter the bladder and cause infections.
Left untreated, these infections can spread throughout the urinary tract and into other areas of the body, causing pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and even death.
If the kidneys are not working correctly, they will not produce enough urine to flush away all the waste produced by the cells.
This leads to the formation of tiny stones inside the kidneys.
They can block the flow of urine through the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder, which prevents the kidneys from flushing out the waste.
Over time, these stones grow larger until they break free from the kidney and travel down the urinary tract.
Urinary Tract Infections
When the kidneys are not working well, they are unable to remove harmful chemicals and bacteria from the urine.
This allows bacteria to multiply and invade the urinary tract. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very painful and can last for weeks or months.
UTIs can also lead to kidney infection, kidney stones, and kidney failure.
High Blood Pressure
People who have kidney disease may experience high blood pressure. High blood pressure damages the walls of the arteries and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
It also makes it harder for the kidneys to perform their job of removing waste from the blood.
Kidney stones can also damage the tissues around the kidneys. This can cause inflammation and scarring, which can make it more difficult for the kidneys to function properly.
If left untreated, kidney disease can lead to death. Fortunately, early detection and treatment can help prevent many of these complications.
Symptoms Of Kidney Damage
There are many signs that your kidneys may not be functioning properly, and this can occur if urine crystals are not detected or treated in time.
If the kidneys are damaged, the urine becomes cloudy and contains large amounts of sediment. It can also contain small pieces of tissue called casts.
These casts are made up of proteins and minerals that were filtered out of the blood but remain trapped in the urine.
When you urinate, the fluid is supposed to pass through the ureters and leave the body. However, when the kidneys are damaged, this does not happen as easily.
As a result, the urine may become cloudy and thick. You may notice that the amount of urine you produce decreases over time.
You may feel cold and clammy, but have a high temperature because the kidneys are no longer producing heat-producing hormones.
In addition, the kidneys do not filter toxins like sodium and potassium from the blood.
As a result, these substances build up in the bloodstream. The buildup of these substances causes an increase in the temperature of the body.
Nausea And Vomiting
The kidneys normally regulate salt levels in the body. If the kidneys are damaged, they cannot control how much salt enters the body.
This results in excess salt being excreted into the urine. As a result, people with kidney disease often develop nausea and vomiting.
The kidneys play a key role in regulating energy production in the body.
When the kidneys are damaged, there is less energy available to fuel the muscles and brain. People with kidney disease may feel tired and weak.
Changes In Mood
When the kidneys are damaged, certain hormones that affect mood are affected. For example, dopamine is a hormone that helps keep people calm.
Dopamine levels decrease in people with kidney disease. As a result, they tend to get anxious and depressed.
Loss Of Appetite
When the kidneys are damaged, appetite loss occurs. This is because the kidneys are responsible for maintaining proper levels of calcium and phosphorus in the body.
These nutrients are needed to maintain strong bones and teeth.
People with kidney disease usually lose weight because they are unable to process food efficiently. They may also lose muscle mass due to a lack of protein.
Your doctor will ask about any symptoms you experience. He or she will also examine your eyes, ears, nose, throat, lungs, heart, abdomen, and back.
A physical examination is important to determine if the kidneys are working correctly.
Your doctor may order tests such as blood work, X-rays, ultrasound scans, CT (computed tomography) scans, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), or other types of diagnostic imaging tests.
Blood tests measure the levels of various chemicals in the blood. An ultrasound scan uses sound waves to create images of internal organs.
There is currently no cure for kidney failure. Treatment focuses on slowing down the damage caused by the condition.
Medications are used to help prevent further damage to the kidneys and slow the progression of the disease.
Dialysis is another treatment option. This involves removing waste products from the blood using artificial equipment.
Kidney transplantation is yet another option. In this procedure, healthy donor kidneys are placed inside the patient’s body.
Crystals in your urine is a medical issue that has the potential to cause serious issues for your long-term health and wellbeing, and it is imperative that this is addressed as soon as possible.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described, seek advice from a medical professional as soon as possible.