Kidney Stones – Understanding Causes and Treatments

Odds are that someone you know had a kidney stone. They are fairly common, affecting one in eleven people at some point in their life. There is no single cause for kidney stones, but educating yourself on kidney stones can aid in prevention of them.

What is a Kidney Stone

A kidney stone is a solid piece of material that forms in a kidney when substances in urine become highly concentrated. Though some kidney stones are so small that they pass without causing pain, they can also grow large enough to get stuck in the urinary tract, which causes severe pain and even bleeding.

Four different kinds of kidney stones can form:

  • Calcium stones. These are the most common form of kidney stone and are often caused by high calcium and high oxalate excretion.
  • Uric acid stones. Uric acid stones are usually present when the urine is acidic due to a large intake of certain meats, fish and shellfish.
  • Struvite stones. Struvite stones are a result of kidney infections.
  • Cystine stones. A genetic disorder causes cystine to leak into the urine, which forms crystals that turn into cystine stones.

Diagnosing & Treating Kidney Stones

To properly diagnose kidney stones, your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your history with kidney stones, diet, GI problems, and other diseases and disorders. In addition to a physical exam and discussing your medical history, he or she may also perform a urine sample, blood test, abdominal x-ray and CT scans.

After properly diagnosing the kidney stone, your physician will determine a treatment plan based on the size of your kidney stone what it is made of. Smaller stones usually pass through the urinary tract without treatment. Treatment options for larger stones can include:

  • Shock wave lithotripsy. a machine called a lithotripter is used to crush the kidney stone.
  • Ureteroscopy. A uteroscope, which is long, tube like instrument, is used to find the stone with a small basket or used to break up the stone with a laser.
  • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy. A procedure that uses a thin viewing instrument to locate and remove the stone.

Preventing Kidney Stones

Preventing kidney stones depends greatly on the reason the stone is forming. However, focusing on your diet is the first step in preventing any kind of stone from forming. Reducing sodium intake, limiting animal protein, avoiding foods high in oxalate and getting enough calcium are all important in the prevention of kidney stones.

In addition to altering your diet, some health care providers may also prescribe certain medications depending on the type of stone.

For more information on diagnosing and preventing kidney stones, visit Southland Urology today.