A kidney stone is an unforgettable experience. The pain involved can be unbearable, coursing through people in waves until it has passed from the body, exiting through the urinary plumbing. For many who have experienced one, the occurrence repeats itself within seven years. This is true for roughly half of those who have had a kidney stone and do not take preventative measures to avoid it happening again. These steps for prevention are not complicated but do require determination. For so much trouble and pain, a kidney stone is a small thing, between the size of a grain of salt and a kernel of corn. It forms when the body contains certain minerals in too high a quantity without containing enough liquid. A kidney stone can be yellow or brown in color and rough or smooth in texture.
Causes of Kidney Stones
Determining the particular cause of a kidney stone can be difficult. They occur when the urine contains high levels of such minerals as oxalate, calcium, and uric acid. When people lack sufficient urine within their bodies to dilute such minerals in high concentrations, kidney stones may form. Consider making a drink with a powder mix. When insufficient liquid, such as water, is added, the powder clumps up. It results in chunks that are hard and dry. Dehydration is one of the key causes of kidney stones. Other causes include such medical conditions as:
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn's disease
- Dent's disease
- Medullary sponge kidney
- Gastric bypass surgery
Kidney stones can be caused by the things people eat, dehydration due to diarrhea, obesity, pregnancy, and a family history including kidney stones. Vitamin C supplements can lead to these small but painful formations, as can lack of calcium, excess protein, and various medications.
Symptoms of Kidney Stones
Kidney stone symptoms may not appear until the stone begins to stir. When it moves around within the kidney or traveling into the ureter, people may feel pain in one of three places. These are the lower belly, the groin or testicles, and below the ribs in the back or side. When the pain shifts around within the body, it indicates the stone moving along from the kidney, through the ureter, and into the bladder. The pain may be most intense when people urinate. This pain can range from mild to strong enough to warrant a hospital visit. The pain tends to come and go, with waves of the most severe pain lasting anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes. Most of the symptoms are centered around urination. They include:
- Burning when urinating
- An urge to urinate more frequently
- Difficulty peeing
- Blood that taints the color to pink, brown, or red in urine
- Small stones visible in the urine
- Urine that is cloudy or smells bad
Getting Treatment for Kidney Stones
Generally, kidney stones pass without assistance. When this is not the case, or if the pain is too severe, a medical practitioner can remove or break up the crystals. Treatment depends on the symptoms and the stone size and location. Waiting comes first. If the stone does not trouble the patient, the physician might suggest waiting two to four weeks. People may be advised to drink extra water. If a stone is too large to pass without assistance, surgery may be called for. Potential procedures include:
- SWL, or Shock wave lithotripsy: this procedure works for medium or small stones. High-energy sound waves break the stone into small pieces.
- Ureteroscopy: a thin, flexible scope passes into the ureter through the urethra and bladder to reach the kidney stone. Small stones are removed with baskets; a laser via the scope breaks up larger stones.
- Percutaneous nephrolithotripsy or percutaneous nephrolithotomy: if other procedures fail, these similar procedures are used for large stones. The doctor inserts a thin tube through the skin, removing or breaking it.