Urine naturally contains minerals and salts that are typically dissolved before being expelled from the body. When the urine doesn’t contain enough liquid, these minerals and salts can crystalize and form irregularly shaped masses called kidney stones.
Kidney stones can be as small as a grain of sand or grow as large as a golf ball. Although formed in the kidney, kidney stones can affect many parts of the urinary tract, including the bladder and ureter.
There are four different types of kidney stones:
- Calcium stones. The most common type of kidney stones, calcium stones contain oxalate – a substance made by the liver and absorbed by a balanced diet.
- Uric acid stones. Uric acid stones are most common in patients who are dehydrated, whether from an illness or lack of water consumption on a regular basis.
- Struvite stones. Not very common, struvite stones are typically a response to a urinary tract infection.
- Cystine stones. Cystine stones are the least common type of kidney stone, as they are only associated with a hereditary metabolic disorder called cystinuria.
Most Common Causes of Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are most common in men ages 30 to 40 and are known to affect one in 10 people throughout their lives. They can be caused by a variety of factors, including the following.
One of the most common kidney stone risk factors is dehydration. Dehydration can be a result of:
- Working or living in a hot climate
- Rigorous exercise
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Not drinking enough water
To stay adequately hydrated, we recommend drinking at least 100 fluid ounces, or 12.5 cups, of water each day.
While calcium kidney stones are most common, reducing the amount of calcium in your diet may not yield your desired results. Instead, those who eat diets rich in proteins are at a higher risk of developing kidney stones.
To reduce the risk of developing calcium kidney stones, consider reducing intake of the following foods:
- Other protein-rich foods
There are a variety of medical conditions, metabolic and otherwise, that contribute to the development of kidney stones. Some of these conditions include:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Crohn’s disease
- High blood pressure
Some medications may increase your risk of developing kidney stones. Medications include but are not limited to:
- Calcium-based antacids
If a family member, especially a parent or sibling, has had kidney stones in the past, you may be at a higher risk of developing them yourself. We encourage you to talk to one of our doctors about your family history of kidney stones, so we can develop an effective preventive plan to protect you.
Signs & Symptoms
Because the size of kidney stones can vary from the size of a grain of sand to the size of a golf ball, signs and symptoms can vary from patient to patient.
As a general rule of thumb, patients may experience the following symptoms from kidney stones:
- Severe lower back pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Consistent urgency to urinate
- Burning sensation while urinating
- Cloudy urine
- Blood in the urine
Kidney Stone Diagnosis & Treatment
If you are experiencing symptoms of a kidney stone, diagnostic testing options can include imaging, blood tests, and urine tests. Once these tests have confirmed you have a kidney stone, there are a few treatment options to choose from. When a kidney stone is small, it may be recommended you wait until the stone passes naturally. One of our doctors can prescribe you medication to ensure you stay comfortable throughout your time passing the stone.
In the event waiting for the kidney stone to pass isn’t a viable option, one of the following treatment methods may be recommended.
Shock Wave Lithotripsy (SWL)
Depending on the size of your kidney stone, SWL may be recommended. During this procedure, sound waves are used to create strong vibrations that break up the kidney stone in your body. These vibrations break down the kidney stones into fragments small enough to pass naturally. This procedure typically only takes about an hour to complete.
Ureteroscopy is a procedure generally recommended for patients with moderate-sized kidney stones that are still within the kidney. During this procedure, a ureteroscope or small telescope is used to view the inner portion of the kidney. Once the kidney stone is in view, a small basket-like device will remove the stone from the kidney. This procedure is performed under general anesthesia but has a relatively short recovery period.
Percutaneous Lithotripsy (PCNL)
If you have a larger kidney stone, PCNL will likely be recommended to treat your condition. During this procedure, a small incision will be made in the back or side to gain access to the kidney. From there, a small telescope called a nephoscope will be used to view, break up, and extract the large kidney stone. Because this surgery is more involved, it is likely you may have to stay in the hospital overnight.
Kidney Stone Treatment in Brockton & Taunton, MA
At Associates in Nephrology in Brockton & Taunton, Massachusetts, providing top-quality, compassionate kidney care is our No. 1 priority. If you’re suffering from kidney stones, we understand that getting quick, effective care is at the top of your priority list.
To keep your kidneys as healthy as possible and effectively address your kidney stone issue, schedule an evaluation or consultation with our doctors by calling Associates in Nephrology at (508) 587-0700 or request an appointment now.