Kidney stones are hard deposits of salts and minerals that form in your kidneys and can cause problems for your entire urinary tract. These stones are fairly common, and their incidence is increasing, with 11 percent of men and 6 percent of women in the U.S. dealing with at least one case of them in their lifetime. Also referred to as renal calculi, nephrolithiasis or urolithiasis, kidney stones can come from different causes and lead to intense pain and other symptoms.
If you’re dealing with kidney stones, it’s important to know how to manage the condition and what help is available. To find the best methods of care for kidney stones, let’s look at the different types, what passing a stone feels like, and how you can treat and prevent them from coming back.
Residents of the Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, and Greater South Florida area looking for relief from kidney stones or other urinary conditions can find help from Drs. Craig Herman, Steven Kester, and the comprehensive medical team at the Urology Center of Florida.
Types of kidney stones
While they are commonly referred to as kidney stones, these deposits can form in any part of your urinary tract, which consists of your kidneys, bladder, ureter, and urethra. This unpleasant illness can come in four varieties:
- Calcium: The most common type of stone, these are usually made of calcium oxalate, although they can also be composed of calcium phosphate or calcium maleate.
- Uric acid: Resulting from too much acid in your urine, these are likely to occur in people with metabolic syndrome, gout, diabetes, or obesity.
- Struvite:These are found in people with urinary tract infections (UTIs) or kidney infections and can cause obstructions while urinating.
- Cystine: This is the rarest form of stone, found only in men and women dealing with the genetic disorder cystinuria.
Often, bad dietary habits (high levels of salt, protein. or glucose), obesity, dehydration, hyperparathyroid conditions, inflammatory bowel diseases, and certain medications can increase the risks of getting a kidney stone.
The experience of passing a kidney stone
The process of passing a kidney stone depends on the size and location of the deposit that needs to move through your urinary tract. Most stones, about 80%, are small and will pass naturally in about a month. Some are larger and may take a little longer, but if they’re 6 millimeters (about 2/10 of an inch) in diameter or larger, they require medical attention. Where location is concerned, if a stone forms near the kidney, it will pass naturally 48 percent of the time, while those that form near the bladder pass by themselves about 79 percent of the time.
You can help to speed up passing the stone by reducing your protein and calcium intake, eat less salty foods, and adding more citrus fruits to your diet. The best method is to increase your water intake, which will encourage urination and help pass the stone more quickly.
Treatment and prevention
If you’re experiencing pain as the stone is passing, over the counter medications like ibuprofen can help with mild symptoms, but many other options are available, depending on your specific needs. If there is an infection present, antibiotics can be used, and other medications can be employed to either manage pain (acetaminophen, naproxen sodium, ketorolac) or treat the stones (allopurinol, thiazide diuretics, sodium citrate, and phosphorus solutions).
Larger stones can be managed by extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, which can break them down into smaller deposits; tunnel surgery to remove stones that are too big; and ureteroscopy to remove stones that get stuck in your urinary tract. Lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the chances of getting more kidney stones include drinking more water daily, eating fewer oxalate-rich foods, reducing the amount of salt and animal protein in your diet, and watching your calcium intake.
Kidney stones can be very unpleasant, but you can deal with it, and we can help. Make an appointment by phone or online today with Drs. Herman, Kester and the Urology Center of Florida to get relief.