Kidney stones are a very common urologic disorder experienced by half a million Americans annually. Both men and women are affected by kidney stones. Fortunately, there are many ways to diagnose, treat and prevent them. Here’s Dr. Avila’s guide to kidney stones.
What Are Kidney Stones and What Are Their Symptoms?
Kidney stones are small, pebble-like deposits of calcium, sodium and other minerals which crystallize in the kidneys.
Depending on their size, shape and composition, they can cause noticeable–even excruciating–symptoms as they pass from the kidneys, through the ureters, bladder and out the urethra during urination.
Some stones actually get lodged in the urinary tract, causing additional symptoms such as:
- Urinary frequency
- Sharp lower back and groin discomfort
- Stomach aches which persist
- Cloudy, bloody, and/or smelly urine
Some people liken the severity of kidney stone pain to the labor pains of childbirth. Other stones may not be as uncomfortable and pass relatively easily through the urinary tract and out of the body.
The most common type of kidney stone is formed from calcium oxalate. Others are struvite, cystine and uric acid kidney stones.
Are There Risk Factors for Developing Kidney Stones?
There are many reasons why kidney stones form. Interestingly, likelihood for kidney stones can run in families. In other words, there is an inherited physiology which predisposes a person to develop kidney stones.
Other risk factors include:
- Certain medications
- Frequent UTIs
How Are Kidney Stones Treated?
Many kidney stones are small enough to pass naturally through the typical urine stream.
With other, larger stones, patients may need to push a lot of water through their systems and possibly take certain prescription medications to ease the discomfort and to dislodge the stones and to facilitate their passage.
Depending on size and location, some kidney stones need more advanced interventions. A urological surgeon may recommend removal via cystoscopy, which is the insertion of a thin tube through the urinary tract. It traps and retrieves the stones.
Some kidney stones may be pulverized with shock wave therapy–also called lithotripsy. Done with benefit of sedation, lithotripsy sends sound waves through the lower back and breaks kidney stones into tiny bits which are naturally flushed out of the bladder.
A special CT scan of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder – known as a KUB scan –yields important diagnostic information. It is painless and helps the urologist plan the right kind of treatment.
Can I Prevent Kidney Stones?
Some people struggle with kidney stone formation throughout their adult lives. However, there are some preventive measures which help reduce the frequency and intensity of kidney stones and their symptoms, such as:
- Increasing daily hydration to 8-12 glasses of water a day as recommended by the National Kidney Foundation
- Upping intake of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Lowering salt and fructose intake
- Controlling body weight
- Avoiding high salt and processed foods
Plus, if you are prone to develop kidney stones, keep current with your annual wellness check-ups and see your urologist in Phoenix as often as he recommends.
Phoenix Urological Surgeon Serving Mesa and Phoenix, Arizona
If you think you may be developing a problem with kidney stones, we encourage you to come to one of our two offices for a consultation with Dr. Avila. Get a plan in place now to keep your urinary tract functioning for years to come.