If you’ve ever suffered from kidney stones, you’re very familiar with the impact those frustrating deposits of calcium oxalate have on a person. It is not a pleasant experience. What is the deal with that? Why are kidney stones such a pain?
What Are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones are formed when urine has higher levels of minerals and salts than it should. The excess minerals and salts clump together, creating stones that could grow larger over time. Sometimes these stones will hang out in your kidney unnoticed. Sometimes they may even pass through your urine without incident. But when one of those little boogers attempts to make its way down the ureter and it doesn’t quite fit… well, that leads us to the next question:
Why Do They Hurt?
The ureter is small and inflexible. It doesn’t make room for a stone to work its way through. In fact, the ureter will actually clamp down on the stone in an effort to squeeze it out. This results in some rather intense pain.
Meanwhile, the stone may end up blocking the ureter. As a result, urine gets backed up into the kidney, leading to pressure (and pain) within the kidney. By this point, you’re probably experiencing the following symptoms:
- Sharp waves of pain in the back, side, and lower abdomen
- Feelings of pressure or strong urges to relieve the bladder
- The appearance of dark urine often accompanied by a burning sensation during urination
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Elevated temperature/fever
What Causes Them?
One way to avoid all of that pain is to understand what causes the formation of kidney stones and make lifestyle adjustments. While this doesn’t guarantee a lifetime of stone-free kidneys, you could certainly lower your risks. The most common factors for the manifestation of stones are:
Low Urine Volume
If you aren’t in the habit of hydrating properly, your urine volume will be low. Taking in at least half your body weight in ounces of water on a daily basis will keep the minerals and salts diluted the way they should be.
High calcium deposits in the urine are often synonymous with kidney stones. Reducing the amount of calcium in your diet (such as salt and sodium enriched foods) will help prevent painful stones from developing.
Several medical condition, many of which correlate to the bowel, have been linked to the production of stones. Conditions such as Crohn’s Disease, abnormal parathyroid glands, and distal renal tubular acidosis have a tendency to contribute to stone formation.
There is a link between obesity and the risk of kidney stones. Maintaining a healthy weight could be what keeps you stone free.
If you have a family history of kidney stones, you are, unfortunately, more prone to developing them yourself. Also, if you’ve had them in the past, you may be more susceptible to suffering from them again.
How Are Kidney Stones Treated?
Once stones have formed, they need to pass. Oftentimes, there is no need for medical intervention. Staying well hydrated, making dietary changes, and maintaining a healthy weight are all ideal ways to both prevent and pass kidney stones. But if you have stones that refuse to leave you be, you may need additional treatment.
Additional treatments include:
- Shock wave lithotripsy – blasting the stones into small pieces
- Cystoscopy and ureteroscopy – using scopes to find and remove stones
- Percutaneous nephrolithotomy – using a scope inserted directly into the kidney to find and remove stones
- Medication – such as Tamsulosin (Flomax) and pain reliever
A urologist has all the answers you’re looking for when it comes to kidney stones. The physicians of Urology Associates of South Bend are devoted to caring for you. As the largest urology practice in the region, we provide the most advanced surgical and non-surgical treatment options for all kinds of urinary disorders. Contact us today to find out exactly how to rid your kidney of stones and free your life of the pain.