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Kidney Stones Explained

kidney-stonesKidney stone pain has been described by many as the most excruciating pain possible. Kidney stones have been around for thousands of years. In fact,
they have been found in Egyptian mummies.

What is a Kidney Stone?

It is a small crystal structure. Did you make rock candy as a child? A kidney stone develops in a similar way as crystals settle out in the urine within the kidney.

Are Kidney Stones Painful?

Pain begins as the small stone begins its passage down the ureter tube toward the bladder. This pain is often described as a cramping sharp feeling that begins in the flank.  It may radiate toward the groin, especially as the stone moves further down the ureter toward the bladder. Nausea and vomiting are common because of the intense pain. There may be blood in the urine from damage to the lining of the tube as the stone passes through. So the urine can be brown or reddish pink in color.  Fortunately, the pain and other symptoms usually stop after the stone reaches the bladder.

How are Kidney Stones Treated?

If you have a stone here are a few of the medical treatments to expect:

  • Hydration with IV fluids.
  • Pain medication.
  • Nausea medication.
  • CT scan or sonogram to help make sure of the diagnosis.
  • Antibiotics are given if a urine infection is suspected.

Most kidney stones can be passed through the urine over a few hours or days. But if it does not pass on its own you may need a urologist to remove it through special procedures. Larger stones may require:

  • Surgery to remove the stone.
  • Lithotripsy (“shock wave”) treatment to break up the stone.
  • Scope procedures to place a stent or remove the stone.
  • Tube placement into the kidney through the skin over the flank to relieve pressure in the kidney.

Preventing Kidney Stones

Once you have had one kidney stone you are more likely to have another in the future. There are several things you can do to help reduce the risk of developing additional kidney stones.  First, drink plenty of water and clear liquids. This increases urine flow and is one of the best methods to prevent kidney stone formation.  Also, most stones a made of calcium, so it is a good idea to not over-do the calcium supplements if you have had one.  Avoiding excessive salt and protein can also help prevent additional kidney stones from forming.

Common Kidney Stone Complications

  • When you do have a stone get prompt medical attention if you develop:
  • Pain which cannot be controlled with your prescribed medications.
  • Vomiting that will not resolve.
  • Weakness, dizziness, or fainting.
  • Fever.
  • Inability to pass urine, or pressure over the bladder area.