Did you know that about one in 10 people will have kidney stones at some point during their lifetime? Kidney stones, also known as nephrolithiasis, renal calculi, or urolithiasis, are the hard deposits of salts and minerals that can form inside your kidneys. You can avoid developing a kidney stone by always drinking plenty of water, which naturally flushes out your system.
The stones can be irregularly shaped, solid masses, or crystals of varying sizes. Sometimes, a kidney stone is so small that you don’t even realize that you have it, while other times even a small crystal may cause you excruciating pain because of its consistency.
Let’s talk about everything you need to know about kidney stones, and where you can go in Greater Boston and Southeastern Massachusetts for expert treatment of kidney stones.
Types of Kidney Stones
There are several main kinds of kidney stones. Knowing the type of your stone can help you determine its cause and reduce your risk of getting more in the future.
The most common types of kidney stones include:
- Calcium stones – These are the most common types of kidney stones, and they are usually in the form of salts of calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate.
- Struvite stones – A urinary tract infection (UTI) may result in the formation of these stones.
- Uric acid stones – People who eat a high-protein diet, lose too much fluid, and have metabolic syndrome usually develop these stones in their kidneys.
- Cystine stones – People who havecertain hereditary disorders, such as cystinuria (a condition in which there is too much excretion of specific amino acids),tend to develop these stones.
Causes of Kidney Stones
Kidney stones don’t have a single cause. Rather, they can occur when you have more crystal- or stone-forming substances (like calcium, oxalates, uric acid, phosphates, etc.) in your urine and less fluid in which to dilute these substances. The stone-forming substances can become highly concentrated, and then they crystallize.
Other factors that can contribute to the development of kidney stones include:
- A diet rich in protein, sugar, and sodium (salt)
- Family history of kidney stones
- Digestive disease or surgery, such as for inflammatory bowel disease, chronic diarrhea, or gastric bypass surgery, which impairs the absorption of calcium and water
- Certain medical conditions, such as hyperparathyroidism, cystinuria, and renal tubular acidosis
- Certain supplements and medications
- Inadequate consumption of water
Do They Cause Any Symptoms?
You won’t experience any symptoms of kidney stones until the stones begin to move from your kidney and pass into one of your ureters (the tubes that connect your kidneys with your bladder).
A kidney stone that is stuck in your ureter blocks urine flow, causing the ureter to spasm and the kidneys to swell. This may result in symptoms like:
- Severe, sharp pain in your side, back, and/or below the ribs
- Pain and burning sensation during urination
- Pain that radiates to your groin area and lower abdomen
- Pain that comes in waves and fluctuates in intensity
- Colored urine (typically red, pink, or brown)
- Cloudy or smelly urine
- Persistent urge to urinate
- Fever and chills (in the case of kidney infection)
How Are They Diagnosed?
When you visit a kidney doctor with symptoms of kidney stones, the doctor will run some tests and check certain signs to give you a firm diagnosis. The most common diagnostic tests your doctor will order include:
- Blood test – To determine the concentration of calcium and uric acid in your blood
- Urine test – To find out whether you’re excreting too many stone-forming minerals or too few stone-preventing substances
- Imaging test–Such as ultrasound, X-rays, and/or computerized tomography (CT scan) to check for kidney stones in your urinary tract
Treatment of Kidney Stones
The treatment modalities for kidney stones vary depending on the type of kidney stone and its cause:
- Small stone treatment – If the stone is small, it won’t require invasive treatment. You can treat such stones by:
- Drinking plenty of water per day
- Taking prescription medication, such as alpha-blockers, that will help the kidney stone to pass quickly through your urinary tract without much pain
- Taking pain relievers to mitigate the pain
- Large stone treatment – Large kidney stones that are too big to pass on their own can cause symptoms such as bleeding, kidney damage, and an ongoing urinary tract infection (UTI). Such stones do require extensive treatment. Commonly performed procedures for removing large stones include:
- Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) is the use of sound waves to break the stone into small pieces which are then easy to pass on their own
- Invasive surgery to remove the large stone
- Minimally invasive ureteroscopy to remove the large stone without an incision
Treatment for Kidney Stones in Southeastern Massachusetts
If you think you might have kidney stones, have a medical evaluation here at Associates in Nephrology. Our team of highly trained kidney specialist scan efficiently and accurately diagnose, treat, and explain how to prevent your kidney conditions, including kidney stones. After a thorough evaluation and giving you a diagnosis of the issue, our nephrologists will offer different treatment options so that you can make an informed decision about your health.