If you suffer from frequent urination, blood in your urine, and repetitive urinary tract infections, you may have a kidney stone. While there are multiple forms of kidney stones they are all caused by an abundance of different chemicals in the kidney such as calcium, oxalate, and uric acid. In addition, you may also lack chemicals in the urine that prevent crystals from forming.
If you find that you are frequently urinating with foul-smelling and possibly pink, red, or brown coloration due to blood being present in the urine paired with nausea and vomiting, then you may have a kidney stone. In addition, you may also experience frequent urinary tract infections and severe pain in your side and back below your ribs that radiates from your lower abdomen to your groin that comes in “waves” yet with varying intensities.
There are both invasive and non-invasive treatment options. For smaller stones, you may need to simply increase your intake of water every day. This would mean drinking enough water every day that your urine is clear or only slightly cloudy. For the associated pain, you can take over the counter pain relievers such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen. Your doctor may also prescribe alpha blockers, which makes the stones pass more quickly.
If the patient is experiencing larger stones that they can’t pass on their own, there are other options. These may include extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL), which is the use of shock waves to break up the stones, making them easier to pass. Often, this is performed as outpatient surgery but requires anesthesia for the comfort of the patient.
Also available is a procedure called percutaneous nephrolithomy which requires a small incision into the patients back that allows the surgeon to then “tunnel” into the kidney, where a nephroscope is used to locate the stones. From here, an ultrasonic or electrohydraulic probe is used to break the stone into smaller pieces, thus allowing them to pass naturally. During the procedure, the doctor may have been able to remove the larger stone pieces, allowing the tiniest pieces to pass.
The next available procedure is called an ureteroscopy. This procedure uses a scope passed through the urethra and bladder to your ureter. This then uses a “cage” like probe to either remove the stone in its entirety or to shatter it allowing the pieces to pass. Often, this requires a short stay in the hospital to ensure there are no infections following the procedure.
If the patient has a family history of kidney stones, or even a personal history, it’s more likely they will have ongoing complications with stone development. To properly treat and prevent recurring stones in these patients, regular blood and urine testing is required. This ensures the doctor is able to keep a check on chemical levels present in the specimens so that preventative treatment can be performed. This may be a simple med change or increased fluid intake.
Should the stones persist, it may be necessary to add an alpha blocker for regular use. There is also the chance that patients may require additional stone removal in the future. This would be necessary if the physician determined that the patient is suffering repeated urinary tract infections as a result of the stones.
Kidney stone sufferers should know there are options to help prevent kidney stones from forming. Drinking plenty of water regularly keeps the kidneys and bladder functioning often, which helps prevent urine from sitting in the bladder or kidneys for extended periods an increasing the chance of stones forming. Avoiding oxalate rich foods such as spinach, beets, and potato chips and French fries may also be beneficial to patients. Also, eating low salt and low animal protein foods may help in prevention.
In closing, it may be possible to not only slow down the formation of further kidney stones but also reduce the number of stones simply by watching your diet and drinking plenty of water. If at any time symptoms are suspected, medical care should be sought. If detected early enough, it may prevent more invasive procedures and quicken the recovery time.