“It feels like I’m in labor!”
“It’s like I’m being stabbed with a knife - over and over.”
“My urine is on fire!”
If you’ve ever talked with someone who's experienced the passing of a kidney stone, you’ve likely heard them explain it using one or all of these excruciating terms. Last year, emergency rooms reported over 500,000 cases of patients with kidney stones, and it is estimated that 1 out of every 10 people will deal with kidney stones at some point during their lifetime. With so many cases coupled with such undesirable symptoms and effects of kidney stones, it’s worth the time to figure out if there’s anything you can do to prevent these tiny stones from becoming massive pain points in your life.
What is a Kidney Stone?
Imagine mixing a powdered drink with water. After shaking or stirring the drink, you see clumps forming because you did not initially add enough water to break down and spread out all of the powder. Kidney stones form in a way not dissimilar from this analogy. Kidney stones are hard deposits, or crystals, that form inside the kidney when the minerals in the urine become too saturated for the urine to be able to dissolve them all. They then begin to bind together, and can be as small as a grain of salt or even as large as a small pea. Although most kidney stones are made from calcium, they can also be made up of uric acid, struvite, and cystine. The smoothness of the stones can vary as well, as some can be as smooth as a pebble and others are more jagged and even pointed like sand spurs. Kidney stones are more frequent than the number of emergency room cases suggest, as people only feel the stones when they are on the move in the kidney or further along in the urinary tract. When they do get on the move, though, there is an immediate and painful awareness on the part of the patient.
What Causes Kidney Stones?
While there is no common or known specific cause of kidney stones, there are many factors that increase the likelihood of one dealing with this painful condition. As noted earlier, drinking too little water can lead to conditions improving for the buildup of the minerals that cause stones. Kidney infections seem to increase the risk of stones as does having family members with a history of stones. Diets high in sodium, diets high in proteins, certain supplements, and even obesity all increase the risk of someone getting a kidney stone. Overall, a balanced diet and lifestyle is the best way to prevent kidney stones save for cases involving predisposed conditions and digestive diseases.
How do I Know if I Have a Kidney Stone?
The only way to truly diagnose a kidney stone is to go to your physician, get an examination, and run imaging tests. There are, however, many symptoms besides severe pain in the lower back, side and abdomen that are huge red-flags and indicators when coupled with severe pain. These include:
- A burning feeling during urination
- The feeling of always needing to urinate
- Your urine has blood in it, is cloudy, and/or has a strange smell
- Urinating small amounts at a time (a large stone could be blocking the pathway)
- Fever and chills
- Nausea and vomiting
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and suspect you may be suffering through kidney stones, don’t hesitate to call our office and schedule a visit.
How do You Get Rid of Kidney Stones?
While some stones will pass on their own, others need the assistance of medical professionals. In these cases, the treatment can vary based on the severity of the condition along with the overall health of the patient. If it is a smaller stone, a combination of prescription drugs for pain and/or nausea and plenty of water will likely help the patient through the passing of the stone. In more severe cases with bigger stones, though, the doctor may have to go in and break it up or even remove it. There are several options that may be used, all of which can be discussed and better understood with your physician.
While kidney stones are an extremely painful condition, only in rare cases are they life-threatening. Regardless, the pain is real and needs to be dealt with immediately. Please reach out to our clinic today if you have questions or concerns about kidney stones and your health.