Most people shutter at the thought of kidney stones. Especially the idea of passing a kidney stone. You’ve probably heard a horror story or two of the pain and discomfort that can be involved. Of course, that’s not how kidney stones always play out.
The severity of a kidney stone and how it’s ultimately treated varies from case to case. Still, you should be wary of them. They currently affect around 1 in 11 people, and they’re becoming more common. They’re also among the top 10 reasons why people visit the emergency room.
But what exactly are they? And more important, how can you avoid them?
What is a Kidney Stone?
Kidney stones are hard deposits that consist of minerals and salts. As you might guess from the name, they form in one of your kidneys. Your kidneys are responsible for filtering wastes and excess water from your blood, forming urine. Sometimes, the wastes can build up, creating a kidney stone.
Sometimes, this stone will remain in the kidney, causing discomfort there. Other times, it will exit through the ureter, which is the tube that connects your kidney to your bladder. While a kidney stone is quite small in the grand spectrum of things, your ureters and urethra are also quite small (and fairly sensitive).
When these kidney stones start moving, pain usually accompanies them.
What Causes Kidney Stones?
There’s a common idea that kidney stones almost exclusively stem from unhealthy eating and/or a lack of water. While both of these can certainly contribute to the creation of kidney stones, people who lead seemingly healthy lifestyles are also susceptible.
Kidney stones can be the result of multiple factors. Typically, they’re formed from calcium, oxalate, or uric acid build-up. Certain diets, high amounts of vitamin D, and metabolic disorders can all contribute to an increase in calcium and oxalate, creating either of these types of stones.
Uric acid stones are typically found in people who don’t drink enough water, lose too much fluid, consume high amounts of protein, or suffer from gout.
Whatever the cause, the end result is the same.
Signs of Kidney Stones
Sometimes, kidney stones have few if any symptoms until they’ve passed further along your system. Other times, they start causing problems almost immediately. The specifics can vary depending on the size of the stone, as well as where it currently is.
Though kidneys rarely cause permanent damage, they can bring a lot of pain and discomfort.
Symptoms of kidney stones includes:
- Back and/or side pain below the ribs
- Pain during urination
- Pink, red, or brown urine
- Cloudy, pungent urine
- Unexplainable nausea and vomiting
- Constant urination
- Troubles with urine flow
Pain related symptoms can often come in waves, increasing in intensity as the stone moves through your body.
Preventing and Treating Kidney Stones
The best way to treat kidney stones is to avoid them altogether. Some simple ways to decrease your chances of developing stones is to drink a proper amount of water, reduce your sodium intake, limit the amount of animal protein you consume, and make sure you’re getting enough calcium.
Certain foods known to contribute to kidney stone formation include beets, chocolate, spinach, rhubarb, nuts, cola drinks, and tea. Too much vitamin C can increase your chances as well.
If you’ve had them before, you may have an increased chance of forming them again. Lifestyle changes can help decrease these chances.
For those currently experiencing symptoms related to kidney stones, you should see a doctor right away, especially if they are severe. While many stones will eventually (and uncomfortably) pass through your body, some are simply too big.
Left alone, they will continue to cause pain, discomfort, and nausea. They can also block up your urine flow, which is a serious issue.
At Urology Specialists of Ohio, we’re fully equipped to quickly diagnose and treatment kidney stones. Our treatment options include observation of passage, distribution of MET medications (which ease passage), dissolution therapy, and ESWL/shockwave therapy.
The latter option is a non-invasive treatment that sends shockwaves through the body to break up the stone, allowing for a more comfortable passing experience.
Schedule an appointment with one of our urology doctors in the Dayton, Ohio area today!