A kidney stone (calculus, -lith) is a solid mass made up precipitated urine minerals and salts that crystallize together to form a stone. Kidney stones can develop in one or both kidneys and can cause severe pain as they pass through the urinary tract.
Kidney stones vary in size, ranging from a grain of sand to a larger, golf ball-sized mass.
The most common types of kidney stones are calcium oxalate stones, which form due to high levels of calcium and oxalate in the urine. Other types include uric acid stones, struvite stones, and cystine stones.
The symptoms of kidney stones can vary depending on their size and location. The most common symptom is intense pain, often described as sharp and cramp-like, that occurs in the back or side and may radiate to the lower abdomen and groin. Other symptoms include blood in the urine, frequent urination, and a persistent urge to urinate.
Imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasound are commonly used to diagnose kidney stones. These tests help determine the size, location, and composition of the stone.
Treatment for kidney stones depends on factors such as the size and type of stone, as well as the severity of symptoms. Small stones may pass on their own with increased fluid intake and pain management. Larger stones or stones causing severe symptoms may require medical intervention.
Treatment options include:
Pain Management Over-the-counter or prescription pain medications can help manage the pain while the stone passes.
Fluid Intake: Drinking plenty of water can help flush out smaller stones and prevent new stones from forming.
Medications: Depending on the type of stone, medications may be prescribed to help dissolve or prevent further stone formation.
Surgical Procedures: For larger stones that cannot be passed or treated with other methods, surgical procedures such as ureteroscopy or percutaneous nephrolithotomy may be necessary to remove the stone.
Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) This non-invasive procedure uses shock waves to break larger stones into smaller pieces that can be more easily passed through the urinary tract.
How do I prevent kidney stones?
To reduce the risk of developing kidney stones, it's important to stay hydrated by drinking enough water throughout the day. Additionally, dietary changes may be recommended, such as reducing the intake of foods high in oxalate (spinach, beets, nuts) or sodium.
Download the PDF for Kidney Stones.
Here is a podcast episode I did on idiopathic hypercalciuria, a condition where too much calcium is excreted in the urine, increasing stone risk. Hypercalciuria is often treated with thiazide diuretics.
Medication such as tamsulosin and pain control will often allow a small stone to pass on its own.
Done less frequently because of the inconsistency of success. Shock waves passed through the body to break up the stones.
Ureteroscopy and laser lithotripsy is the most common way that stones are removed in our hospital and surgery centers.
An incision into the kidney through the back can give access to the stones to remove them.
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