Kidney Stones Symptoms and Treatment
High levels of the minerals and salts found in urine contribute to the formation of kidney stones. These deposits of salts and minerals begin small and can grow larger as the buildup increases. When kidney stones form and stay in the kidney, they may not cause any problems.
The kidney is connected to the bladder by a tube called the ureter. If small enough, kidney stones can move out of the kidney into the ureter and down to the bladder where they can be passed through urination. If the kidney stone becomes stuck in the ureter, it blocks the flow of urine from the kidney. This blockage can cause intense pain.
Generally, 80% of the kidney stones formed are made from calcium. These stones are either calcium phosphate or calcium oxalate. The latter type is the most common. Too much calcium in the urine can lead to the development of these stones, but they also develop for other reasons even when calcium levels are normal.
Another type of kidney stone contains uric acid. These stones are made from uric acid crystals that develop when the urine is acidic. Chemical changes in the body can create uric acid, which is a waste product. Obesity, chronic diarrhea, high blood sugar, gout and too much protein in the diet with not enough fiber all contribute to acidic urine. Uric acid crystals cannot dissolve in acidic urine and as a result, uric acid stones are created.
Two other types of kidney stones, struvite/infection stones and cystine stones are rare. The former comes from chronic urinary tract infections. These stones form in alkaline urine. They can be large and fast-growing, often with branches. Cystine stones are the result of a rare, inherited metabolic disorder that causes too much cystine to be in the urine. This condition usually begins in childhood.
Treatment for Kidney Stones
If the pain is not debilitating, you can wait for the kidney stone to pass on its own. Smaller stones often pass without any intervention. As long as no infection develops, it is safe to wait a month or so. During this time, it is important to drink plenty of water and pain medication may be needed.
Medication can be used to help a stone pass. Pain relievers will help with discomfort, and medication to relax the ureter so the stone can pass easily can help. Sometimes nausea is an issue. For this situation, anti-nausea medication may be prescribed.
Shock wave lithotripsy (SWL) is used to shatter the kidney stones so they can easily pass through the ureter and bladder. This method works best on smaller, softer stones.
Large kidney stones can be treated with percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL). This method requires a small incision to be made. A rigid telescope (nephroscope) is inserted into the hollow part of the kidney through the incision. Another instrument is passed through the nephroscope to break up the kidney stone and suction the pieces out of the kidney.
Dr. Michael has experience diagnosing and treating kidney stones. If you have symptoms, contact our office today and schedule an appointment.