The Complete Guide to Kidney Stones

The Complete Guide to Kidney Stones

by Stephanie Meadows

The need to go to the bathroom is a natural and vital function of the human body, so that excess waste products and toxins can be flushed out and eliminated that the body doesn’t need. This is why we need to urinate regularly. If you don’t pee frequently or hold it in for long periods of time, this can be detrimental to your body, especially the kidney’s, possibly leading to the formation of kidney stones. 

In the human anatomy, our urinary tract consists of two kidneys, each attached to a ureter (urine tube) that connects the kidney to the bladder, and the urethra which allows us to urinate. The kidneys perform many jobs, including removing waste from the blood, keeping a stable balance of salts and other substances in the body, and producing hormones that help build strong bones and form red blood cells.

It is important to note, that paying attention to your urine’s color is a good indication of your level of hydration, and if you are consuming enough fluids. The goal is to turn your urine a pale yellow or clear color, meaning you are adequately hydrated, and that you have consumed enough fluids, enough to flush out the necessary waste that the body needs to. Dark urine usually indicates you are not getting enough fluids, which leads to a buildup of chemicals and minerals that need fluids to break them up and be passed through urination.

What are Kidney Stones, and What Causes Them to Form?

Kidney stones can form anywhere in your urinary tract, but most commonly in your kidney, bladder, and urethra. When chemicals in your body due to excessive amounts of calcium and sodium, that would normally dissolve, becomes too concentrated in your urine, solid crystals start. In other words, if these deposits of minerals are not regularly expelled when you pee, due to not enough water being in your system to keep the stones from forming, and not normally dissolving in the urine, then, these crystals pile up and stick together, leading to the formation of stones in the kidney, ones that are tiny pebble like, or large ones in some cases. These stones can look all different, and size varies too.

How Common are Kidney Stones?

According to research conducted, statistics show that kidney stones is a common condition that affects more than half a million Americans, effecting both men and women. The prevalence of kidney stones has been on the rise. 13 percent in men and seven percent in women.

There are many factors that could contribute to kidney stones, but the main ones include diet, lifestyle, history of kidney problems, and dehydration. As well, you are considered overweight or obese, eat a diet full of sodium, purine, and uric acid, or you have other medical conditions, you may be more at risk for developing kidney stones. Other causes of kidney stones include:

·       Frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs- More common with women)

·       Dehydration

·       The urinary tract is blocked, not allowing the kidneys to expel urine

·       Having a sedentary lifestyle: Lack of exercise and activity in your life

·       Too much calcium, sodium, uric acid, vitamin C and D in your diet

·       Certain medications

·       Having other conditions or metabolic diseases

·       Family history of kidney stones

Types of Kidney Stones

There are four types of kidney stones. Calcium stones, struvite stones, uric acid stones, and cysteine stones. However, the most common form of kidney stone people suffer from is a calcium oxalate stone. Calcium is a part of a person's normal diet and an important element of the body and diet, calcium that is not used by the bones and muscles goes straight to the kidneys, and is normally flushed when a person urinates. However, as mentioned before, when there is excessive calcium in the urine or problems with the body's ability to eliminate it, this can lead to the development of these stones forming within the kidney.

Symptoms of Kidney Stones

Some of the very noticeable symptoms associated with kidney stones include:

·       Intense, sharp, and severe stomach and lower back and/or groin pain

·       Not being able to urinate, intense feeling of urge to urinate, blood in the urine (hematuria)

·       Nausea, vomiting, fever, etc.

If you have ever had a kidney stone, or know somebody who has had one, you surely would remember it. That excruciating pain often associated with an excruciating stomach ache, or even childbirth, is remarkable. While kidney stones can be treated, you do not want to be a victim of this type of pain. For those who have had kidney stones before, there is a reoccurrence rate of 50 percent. When left untreated, severe damage to the kidneys can occur. 

When a person has a kidney stone, the stone usually becomes stuck in the ureter, the tube where urine passes from the kidney to the bladder. When the stone blocks the flow of urine from coming out of the kidney, it causes a condition called hydronephrosis where the kidney swells up, which often causes excruciating pain.

 How Are Kidney Stones Diagnosed and Treated? 

As mentioned before, the pain associated with a kidney stone trying to pass through your urinary tract is considered one of the most extraordinarily painful experiences. Therefore, the moment you sense something may be wrong, make an appointment with your urologist, as it can help save your life, relieve your pain, and avoid possible, and further complications from occurring. After physical examination, a urine analysis, and a series of other tests, your urologist will determine what action to take.

 Accurate diagnosis and treatment for kidney stones depends on the size of the stone or stones, the severity of the condition, the location, if any other condition or urinary tract infection is present, and your medical history. Urologists usually first like to see if the kidney stone will pass before turning to surgical intervention. 

Waiting for a kidney stone to pass usually takes patience and time.  Sometimes the kidney stone will pass through your urinary tract on its own, or with the help of medication. Sometimes your urologist may prescribe a narcotic called Tamsulosin, which aims to relax the muscles of the ureter, to help breakdown the stone, and pass out of the body during urination. Unfortunately, if the stone is too large, which they can be, and can’t pass through, your urologist will most likely need to perform surgery. 

 If you have been diagnosed with a kidney stone, Dr. Avila can treat you in a number of ways, depending on your case.  If the stone remains tiny enough, it may travel through the urinary tract and pass out of the body naturally, or with the help of medications. However, some stones grow too large to be passed out of the body easily and get stuck on their way through the urinary tract. Technology such as da Vinci Robotics has made it possible for urologists like Dr. Avila to utilize several procedures to precisely and accurately break up, remove, or help people bypass their kidney stones. As a reminder, if left untreated, kidney stones can block the normal flow of urine, causing severe pain, infection, and even kidney damage. So, to avoid kidney stones and other severe health complications, don’t hold in your urine for long periods of time, eat a healthy diet, preferably with low sodium and fat, and drink plenty of water.

Dr. Avila can help keep your urinary tract healthy. To learn more about kidney stones, and what treatment is best for you, Call Ironwood Urology at (480) 961-2323 to learn more, or request an appointment online.