Kidney Stones

Kidney Stones

Overview of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones can go by a variety of names, such as nephrolithiasis or renal lithiasis. They are made of minerals and salts and form inside of the kidneys. They can be caused by a variety of reasons. They are also able to affect any part of the urinary tract. Most commonly, they occur when the urine becomes concentrated, which will then allow the minerals to stick together. When the kidney stones are being passed, people experience pain. To pass a kidney stone, you should drink plenty of water and ask your physician about a medication to aid in passing it. If the stones become problematic, then you may need to have surgery. There are also many preventative treatments that are to help in reducing the risk of kidney stones.

Symptoms of Kidney Stones

In most cases, kidney stones are not painful until they start moving in the kidney or passes into the ureter. The ureter is the tube that connects the kidney and the bladder. When they begin to move or pass, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Urinating small amounts
  • Constant need to urinate
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Severe pain in back and side
  • Pain that is felt in the lower abdomen and groin
  • Pain that fluctuates
  • Pain when urinating
  • Cloudy urine
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Urine that is red, brown, or pink colored

Pain will be felt at different times, depending on where the stone is travelling. You will want to see your physician if you have symptoms that are beginning to worry you or you are experiencing intense pain. Please call our office if you have difficulty passing urine, if you have a fever and chills, if you cannot sit or lay down comfortably, or if there is blood in the urine.

Causes of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones can be caused by a couple of different reasons, but usually occur when the urine contains a lot of calcium, uric acid, and oxalate. In most cases, these form because there are more crystal-forming substances than fluid.

Various Types of Kidney Stones

There are many types of kidney stones. Knowing which type you have it very important on knowing how to treat and how to prevent them. If you are able to save your kidney stones, then do so you can give to your physician for analysis.

The first type of kidney stone is a cystine stone. This is typically found in people that have the genes that cause kidney to excrete cystinuria, an amino acid.

Struvite stones form in response to an infection, like a urinary tract infection. These grow very rapidly and become large. They rarely have any symptoms and have no warning.

Uric acid stones occur in people that do not drink enough or lose too much fluid. It also occurs in those that eat a high-protein diet and also in those that have gout. There are other genetic factors.

The last type of kidney stone is considered a calcium stone. A calcium stone is the most common type of kidney stone that is found. Calcium stones are also called calcium oxalate. Oxalate is found in food and is also made daily by the liver. Certain foods, such as nuts, chocolate, vegetables, or fruit. In some cases, calcium stones turn into calcium phosphate, which is more common in various metabolic conditions.

Risk Factors of Kidney Stones

If kidney stones run in your family, then you are at a higher risk for also developing kidney stones. If you have already had a kidney stone, then you are at a high risk for having another too.

It is essential that you drink enough water. If you do not drink enough water, then you will need to increase the amount of water you are drinking. It is important to drink enough water, especially since we live in a very warm climate and if you sweat a lot. Not only do you need to focus on how much water you are drinking, but also how your diet is. If you have a diet with a lot of sodium, then it will decrease the amount of calcium in the kidneys, which then increase the chance of kidney stones.

It is also important to take care of your body. If you are overweight, then it is important to lose weight. Being obese puts you at a higher risk of kidney stones.

Medical conditions will put you at a high risk for kidney stones. Diseases such as hyperparathyroidism or urinary tract infections as often the cause. If you have digestive disorders or various surgeries that affect your digestive system, then you may also have kidney stones.

Diagnosis of Kidney Stones

When you tell your physician that you have kidney stones, they may perform a variety of tests to see what the cause is. The first test that is typically ran is a blood test. This blood test may show the amount of calcium and uric acid in the blood. These types of test are able watch the health of your kidneys. A urine test is able to see if you are excreting too many minerals that cause the stone to form to not enough chemicals to help get rid of these chemicals. During a urine test, your physician may ask for two tests to check the differences.

Once you pass a kidney stone, your physician will ask you to bring it in. Once you feel that you are passing a kidney stone, then you will be asked to use a strainer when you urinate so that you can catch the kidney stones. The results of the kidney stones will show the cause of them. Your physician will take these results and see what can be done to further prevent them.

An imaging test may be ordered to see the kidney stones that are in the urinary tract. The tests may vary from an x-ray of the abdomen, CT’s, or an ultrasound.

Treatment of Kidney Stones

Treatment of kidney stones will depend on how large they are and what is the cause of them. Smaller stones will not require any treatments and there are many home remedies that may be used to help pass the stone. The first step is to drink plenty of water. Water will help to flush the urinary system. Unless otherwise specified, you should be drinking enough water to make the urine clear. If you are experiencing discomfort, then you will want to take a pain reliever. In some cases, your physician may recommend medical therapy. Medical therapy is usually an alpha blocker, which will work to relax the muscles in the ureter. When these muscles are relaxed, you will be more likely to pass the kidney stone quicker and with less pain.

In more severe cases, home remedies are not enough to help. Your physician may begin by using sound waves which will aid in breaking up the stones. This procedure is also called ESWL, or extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy. This works by using shock waves or vibrations that help to break up the stone into tiny pieces. When they are broken up into these tiny pieces, then you are able to pass them in your urine. The procedure usually lasts for less than an hour and can cause moderate pain. You may be put under sedation or even anesthesia. This can cause blood in the urine, bruising, bleeding around the kidneys and surrounding organs, or discomfort as you pass the stones.

Percutaneous nephrolithotomy is a surgery that may be required to remove larger stones. This is done by making a small incision in your back and small instruments are inserted to remove the kidney stones. You will be under anesthesia and will be admitted into the hospital for one to two days. This is usually recommended when ESWL has not been successful. A scope to remove stones is usually done with smaller kidney stones in the ureter or kidneys. This works by your physician inserting a ureteroscope into the urethra and bladder to your ureter. A ureteroscope is a thing lighted tube. Once they see the stone, these tools are able to break the stone into many pieces. In some cases, your physician may insert a stent, or small tube, in the ureter to relieve the swelling and help in the healing process. You may need anesthesia during this procedure.

Some kidney stones are caused by parathyroid glands. These glands are located around thyroid gland, under the Adam’s apple. When these glands begin to produce too much, kidney stones are formed. Since this is the cause, your physician may work on removing the growth from the gland, so kidney stones are no longer around.

Summary of Kidney Stones

There are many preventative treatments for kidney stones. To first treat the kidney stone, you will need to find the cause of the kidney stone and work to treat that. Kidney stones can be caused by genetics of lifestyle decisions. When you are experiencing pain, it is important to call and schedule an appointment with our office immediately.

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To request an appointment with Urology, call 251-343-9090. To request an appointment with Radiation Oncology, call 251-414-5665.

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