Kidney stones are sturdy salt and mineral deposits that develop within the kidneys. These deposits can cause significant pain and discomfort when they travel through the urinary tract, obstructing urine flow.
Given that approximately one in ten people are at risk of getting kidney stones, it is essential to understand their causes, symptoms, and available treatments.
Causes of Kidney Stones
Numerous factors can contribute to the development of kidney stones, including:
- Dehydration: Urine becomes concentrated when the body is dehydrated, which can cause the formation of kidney stones.
- Food habits: Consuming a diet high in salt, sugar, and animal protein can raise the risk of getting kidney stones.
- Family History: If kidney stones run in your family, you are more likely to develop them yourself.
- Diseases: Certain medical conditions, including gout and inflammatory bowel disease, can raise your risk of developing kidney stones.
Symptoms of Kidney Stones
Kidney stones can cause a wide range of symptoms, some of which are specific to the size and location of the stone. Some may experience severe pain and other complications, whereas others might experience no symptoms at all. Common kidney stone symptoms include:
- Pain: Pain in the lower back, side, or groin is a common symptom of kidney stones. The intensity of this pain varies widely, and it sometimes comes and goes in waves. Some have compared the anguish to that of giving birth.
- Nausea and vomiting: Nausea and vomiting are common reactions to the extreme discomfort that kidney stones can induce.
- Blood in urine: Blood in the urine may be a sign of kidney stones. This could be an indication that the stone has damaged the urinary system.
- Frequent urination: Those with kidney stones may feel the need to urinate frequently, even if they aren’t actually producing much urine.
- Painful urination: Kidney stones can cause severe discomfort and burning when urinating.
- Urinary tract infections: A urinary tract infection might develop if a kidney stone obstructs urine flow. Painful urination, chills, and a high temperature are all possible signs of a urinary tract infection.
It’s worth noting that some people with kidney stones may not experience any symptoms until the stone has been stuck in the urinary tract or damaged the kidney. If you feel you may have a kidney stone, it is vital that you seek medical assistance immediately.
How To Treat Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones can be treated in various ways, some of which are based on the severity of the symptoms and others on the size and location of the stone. Possible methods of treatment include:
- Pain management. Kidney stone discomfort can often be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Sometimes a stronger prescription pain medicine is required.
- Drinking water. Water consumption can help flush out kidney stones and prevent the formation of new ones. Your doctor may advise you to drink lots of water and other drinks with citric acids, such as lemonade and orange juice.
- Medication. Some medications can either dissolve kidney stones or stop them from developing in the first place. Alpha-blockers, for instance, can ease the strain on the ureter’s muscles and allow the stone to pass through easily.
- Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL). This non-invasive technique employs shock waves to break up kidney stones into tiny pieces that can be passed more quickly. Typically, this treatment is performed on an outpatient basis.
- Ureteroscopy. Ureteroscopy involves the use of a tiny camera to detect the kidney stone and a laser to break it down into smaller fragments. The fragments may then pass naturally or be extracted using a basket-like device.
- Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL). This minimally invasive treatment involves cutting a tiny incision in the back and removing the kidney stone with a scope.
Larger kidney stones or stones causing considerable harm to the urinary tract may necessitate surgical removal.
Preventing Kidney Stones
There are several measures you can take to help prevent kidney stones from forming, including:
- Drinking plenty of water: Keeping yourself hydrated is one of the best things you can do to avoid getting kidney stones. It is recommended that you consume 8-10 glasses of water daily.
- Eating a balanced diet: A diet low in salt, sugar, and animal protein has been shown to decrease the likelihood of developing kidney stones. Drinking milk and eating cheese, which is both high in calcium, may help prevent kidney stones.
- Maintaining a healthy weight: Being obese can raise the risk of kidney stones. Talk to your physician if you are overweight to learn about sustainable weight loss options.
- Managing medical conditions: it’s crucial to successfully manage conditions like gout and inflammatory bowel disease, which raise the chance of developing kidney stones.