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Kidney Stones: Causes, Diagnosis and Management

Kidney stones are small, hard bits of minerals and salt that develop inside your kidneys. When they pass through your body, it can be excruciating, but some may pass without you even knowing they were there. 

What are kidney stones and how do they develop?

The purpose of your kidneys is to help remove waste and other byproducts from your body. Much like your liver, think of your kidneys as your body’s own natural filtering system.

If you are dehydrated or do not drink enough water each day, crystals can form that are made of minerals and salt. As these crystals grow, they attract other wastes and chemicals that enlarge the crystal where it forms a solid object. 

Who can develop a kidney stone?

Unfortunately, anyone can develop a kidney stone, but there are a few risk factors, including:

  • Not drinking enough water. While you can get some water through food and even soft drinks, these are by no means what you should use to monitor your water intake.
  • A family history of kidney stones.
  • While anyone can get a kidney stone, men are more likely to develop them.
  • Being overweight.
  • Some illnesses also predispose you to a greater risk of development, including polycystic kidney disease and health problems that alter your urine to contain higher concentrations of things like excess calcium or uric acid. 
  • Certain medications can also increase your risk, like calcium-based antacids or diuretics.

Symptoms include severe pain in your side, lower back pain, burning during urination and blood in your urine.

How to prevent kidney stones

Drinking plenty of water can help them pass and your healthcare provider may give you a medication to make your urine less acidic. A healthy diet and exercise program can also help, along with keeping a proper weight for your body.

Treatments of kidney stones

Treatment options are determined by the size and number of the stones. If your healthcare provider believes the stones will pass on their own, you may be given pain medication to help as they pass naturally.

There are also non-invasive treatments such as shock-wave lithotripsy, which breaks the stones into passable pieces. 

For more advanced cases, a ureteroscopy may be performed, where the physician uses an endoscope to retrieve the stone. Surgery may be required for larger stones.

While kidney stones are unpleasant, they are easily treatable when caught early. Keep yourself properly hydrated with water and follow all your healthcare providers instructions when it comes to medications if you are deemed high risk for developing kidney stones.

For more information, visit TannerUrologyCare.org.

Tanner Health System, Urology Care

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