We have all heard horror stories about someone’s encounter with kidney stones. You may even cringe just thinking about the pain that comes with them. Kidney diseases can be silent, meaning they often don’t cause pain or other symptoms until they have progressed to failure. However, you can prevent the most common causes of chronic kidney disease. For example, receiving timely and proper treatment for kidney stones can help prevent and reduce kidney damage.
At Durham Nephrology, we are dedicated to the prevention, not just treatment. By bringing the basics of kidney stones to the forefront of your mind, we can help you aim to live a healthy life for your kidneys all the time.
What Are Kidney Stones?
By definition, kidney stones are rock-like deposits composed of many of the minerals found in urine. They can be extremely small or even as big as a golf ball. While smaller ones may pass without any pain or you ever realize they are present, larger ones may cause extreme pain, among other symptoms.
While people with kidney stones may experience different symptoms ranging in severity depending on the size of the stone and the individual, the following are the most common symptoms to watch out for:
- Pain in the low back/just underneath the rib cage
- Cloudy urine
- Blood in the urine (may look brown or reddish)
- The sensation of constantly needing to urinate
- The inability to urinate or only to produce small amounts of urine when urinating
- Pain with urination
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fever (in extreme cases)
Treatment for Kidney Stones
The treatment of kidney stones depends greatly on the size and location of the stone.
With smaller kidney stones, consuming more fluids than usual is recommended as the first choice. This may help pass the stone naturally through the urinary tract. While this will likely cause pain, it is the least invasive option with the lowest risk for complication.
If you cannot pass the kidney stone through the urinary tract, more invasive means may need to be taken to resolve the issue.
Often, a physician will use shock wave therapy to help break up the stone into smaller pieces. The vibrations break down the kidney stone so that you can pass the remains through the urinary tract without penetrating the body for removal.
If this is not possible, cystoscopy or ureteroscopy may be performed. The physician will run a scope through the urinary tract in this procedure. After finding the stone, they will break it down or remove it entirely based on its size.
Finally, a method known as percutaneous nephrolithotomy may be performed. This involves direct entrance into the kidney and removal of the stone. A procedure like this will likely only be performed in the most extreme cases of kidney stones.
All of these procedures are normally performed under anesthesia.
The best way to prevent the build-up of kidney stones is to consume adequate fluid. Drinking a lot of fluids, especially water and those with a citrus base, will prevent build-up through dilution of the urine. This dilution will cause minerals to be excreted in the urine regularly, so they do not sit in the kidneys.
Fluid intake should also match the activity level performed, as excess physical activity can cause added dehydration. This is especially important for competitive athletes and those performing exercises in hot and humid environments.
When to Seek Help
If you have any of these symptoms, especially in combination with others from this list, you should seek medical counsel from your doctor. If necessary, your primary care physician can refer you to a urologist specializing in removal procedures.
Frequently recurring or untreated kidney stones over time can cause long-term damage to the kidneys and increase your risk of developing kidney disease. Should your condition become chronic, your doctor may refer you to a nephrologist.
There is no reason to live in discomfort with kidney stones. Do you think you may be experiencing the symptoms of kidney stones? Our team at Durham Nephrology specializes in preventing, diagnosing, and treating kidney diseases. You can request an appointment online at any time or call (919) 477-3005.