Crystal in the Urine: Symptoms, Types & Treatments

The kidney is an important organ in the body. It filters the waste products from the blood and separates urine by sending it to the urethra. Urine is basically made up of water and other chemical compounds including calcium, carbon, nitrogen, and uric acid. At times, the normal functioning of the kidneys is disrupted and compromised due to abnormalities in the body. This can lead to occurrence or formation of crystal-like substances in the urine. Read below and learn more about this condition and how to properly handle it.

Symptoms of Crystals in Urine

Generally speaking, there are no concrete signs or symptoms that will indicate the presence of crystals in the urine. However, monitoring the appearance and testing of the urine can greatly help in determining whether a person is suffering from this condition.

  • Monitor the color of the urine. Any changes in the urine’s color and texture may be an indication of the presence of crystals in the urine. If this condition occurs, consultation with the doctor is highly recommended.
  • Regular urinalysis as prescribed by a doctor. The best way to check crystals in the urine is to have a urine test in the laboratory. This will show the levels of crystals in the urine as well as the possible underlying cause of the condition.

Types of Crystals in Urine

There are several types of crystals depending on their shape and structure. Some of the common types include:

  • Bilirubin crystals. Bilirubin crystals are yellowish, needle-like structures that are formed from conjugated bilirubin. These are considered as abnormal crystals in the urine that are frequently associated with hepatic disorders.
  • Calcium oxalate crystals. Calcium oxalate crystals are enveloped shape that are found in acidic, neutral, or alkaline urine. These may form when there are high levels of calcium, cysteine, and oxalate in the blood. It may also lead to the formation of kidney stones.
  • Cholesterol crystals. Cholesterol crystals are colorless and rectangular in shape. These are formed due to saturated fats and are mostly found in acidic urine.
  • Cystine crystals. Cystine crystals are usually colorless and hexagonal in shape that form due to the leakage of amino acid cysteine. These are often associated with inherited diseases and disorders in the bladder and kidneys.
  • Phosphate crystals. Phosphate crystals are formed due to high levels of protein-rich foods in the diet. This may also be an indication of an overactive thyroid which often results in cloudy urine.
  • Sulfur crystals. Sulfur crystals are formed as a result of taking antibiotics. The high levels of this crystals can damage the kidneys.
  • Triple phosphate crystals. Triple phosphate crystals are composed of ammonium, magnesium, and phosphate. These are formed in alkaline urine and usually associated with urinary tract infections.
  • Uric acid crystals. Uric acid crystals tend to look like rhomboids or parallelograms in shape. These are usually excreted in peeing and high levels of this may indicate the formation of kidney stones and inflammation in the joints.

Causes of Crystals in Urine

The formation of crystals may be due to the following conditions. For as long as the number of crystals doesn’t exceed the normal level, there is nothing to worry about.

  • Dehydration. Dehydration is a major cause of the formation of crystals in your urine. The insufficient amount of fluid intake may cause the minerals and chemical present in the urine like nitrogen and uric acid to harden and then form crystals.
  • Change in pH of urine. The changes in the pH value of the urine may trigger the formation of crystals in the urine. The normal pH value of urine should be acidic, which is less than 7. When the value exceeded, it becomes alkaline, which then leads to the formation of calcium oxalate crystals in the urine.
  • Urinary tract infection. The bacteria that causes urinary tract infection can alter the pH value of the urine, making it more acidic. This alteration in the pH value can lead to crystal formations.
  • Kidney and bladder stone. The crystals that don’t get flushed out for a prolonged period of time in the urine can lead to the formation of kidney and bladder stones. This may even cause abdominal pain when the stones formed are large in size.
  • Diet. Foods that are high in protein may lead to the development of crystals in the urine. This may also cause the increase of uric acid and calcium that enhances the formation of crystals.
  • Side effect of medications. There are certain medicines that can cause crystal formations in the urine. This may occur depending on the interactions of the various drugs as well as the number of fluids being taken.

Treatments of Crystals in Urine

Treating of crystals may vary depending on the cause of the crystal formations. Proper diagnosis through urine culture should be done to check the nature of the crystals. Treatment plans will then be recommended by medical doctors for proper management of the urine crystals. Some of the common treatment plans for this condition include:

  • Management of urine pH. Consuming oxalate-rich foods can increase the acidity of the urine. Foods rich in oxalate include coffee, beer, chocolates, peanuts, spinach, and sweet potatoes.
  • Monitoring of the protein intake. Protein-rich food should not be eaten on a regular basis. These foods contain a high amount of purine contents which add up to crystal formation. Reduce intake of organ meats and sardines. Instead, opt to eat beef, chicken, beans, cauliflower, and salmon.
  • Reduction of salt intake. Salty foods should be removed in the diet since it can increase the calcium content in the urine, making it more acidic. Refrain from eating foods like chips, pickles, fried, and fast foods.
  • Proper hydration. Always drink at least 8 glasses of water every day as it can help prevent crystal formation in the urine. 
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