Did you know that kidney stones are more common than you think? According to the National Kidney Foundation, 1 in 10 people will get a kidney stone at some point in their life. If left untreated, this condition can lead to serious complications such as kidney damage or infection. Therefore, it’s important to identify the early symptoms of kidney stones and seek medical attention promptly. In this article, we will discuss the signs to look out for, the causes and risk factors, diagnosis and treatment options, complications, and prevention methods.
Symptoms to Look Out For
Kidney stones can vary in size and shape. Some people may have tiny stones that pass through their system without causing any pain or discomfort. However, for others, larger stones may cause the following symptoms:
Sharp pain in the lower back or side
The most common symptom of kidney stones is a sharp pain that originates in the lower back or side and radiates to the groin or stomach. This pain can be constant or intermittent and may be accompanied by aching or throbbing sensations.
Pain during urination
Passing a kidney stone can be an uncomfortable experience. Pain or burning during urination is another common symptom that occurs when the stone blocks the ureter, the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder.
Nausea and vomiting
Some people with kidney stones may experience nausea or vomiting due to the pain and discomfort caused by the stone. This symptom often accompanies other symptoms, such as pain or difficulty urinating.
Blood in the urine
When a kidney stone passes through the urinary tract, it can cause small tears or scratches, leading to blood in the urine. If you notice pink or red urine, it’s important to seek medical attention right away.
If a large stone blocks the ureter, it can cause difficulty urinating, as well as a feeling of incomplete bladder emptying.
Causes and Risk Factors
There are several factors that can increase the likelihood of developing kidney stones:
If you don’t drink enough fluids, your urine becomes more concentrated, which increases the risk of developing kidney stones.
A diet high in salt and protein
A diet that is high in salt and protein can increase the level of calcium and other minerals in your urine, contributing to the formation of kidney stones.
Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of developing kidney stones, as well as other health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Some people are more prone to developing kidney stones due to inherited disorders such as cystic fibrosis or hyperparathyroidism.
Certain medications, such as diuretics or antacids, can increase the level of calcium or other substances in your urine, increasing the risk of kidney stone formation.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you suspect that you may have a kidney stone, your doctor will likely perform one or more of the following diagnostic tests:
A computerized tomography (CT) scan uses x-rays to create detailed images of your urinary tract. This test is often used to diagnose kidney stones.
Although not as sensitive as a CT scan, an x-ray can often detect larger stones in your urinary tract.
Using sound waves, an ultrasound can create an image of your kidney and urinary tract. This test is often used if the stone is too small to be seen on x-ray.
Treatment options for kidney stones depend on the size and location of the stone. Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following:
If the stone is small enough to pass on its own, your doctor may prescribe pain medication or muscle relaxants to help you pass the stone.
Lithotripsy uses shock waves to break up the stone into smaller pieces, making it easier to pass through your urinary tract.
If the stone is too large to pass on its own or is causing complications, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the stone.
Complications to Be Aware Of
It’s important to seek medical attention promptly if you suspect that you may have a kidney stone, as this condition can lead to serious complications such as:
When a kidney stone blocks the flow of urine, it can cause a bacterial infection in the urinary tract or kidney.
If the stone blocks the ureter for an extended period of time, it can cause damage to the kidney.
Blockage of urinary tract
A large stone that blocks the urinary tract can cause urine to back up into the kidney, leading to hydronephrosis, a condition in which the kidney swells due to excess fluid accumulation.
There are several steps you can take to reduce the risk of developing kidney stones:
Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, can help prevent kidney stones by flushing out excess minerals and other substances from your urine.
Reducing salt intake
Avoiding foods that are high in salt can help reduce the level of calcium and other minerals in your urine.
Eating a balanced diet
Eating a diet that is low in animal protein and includes plenty of fruits and vegetables can help prevent kidney stone formation.
Avoiding certain foods
Foods that are high in oxalate, such as spinach and rhubarb, can increase the risk of kidney stones in some people. If you’re prone to kidney stones, your doctor may recommend avoiding certain foods.
Tips for reducing the risk of recurrent kidney stones
If you’ve had kidney stones in the past, your doctor may recommend the following tips to reduce the risk of another stone:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Avoid foods high in oxalate
- Avoid vitamin C supplements
- Take medication as directed by your doctor
Kidney stones can be a painful and uncomfortable condition, but with prompt medical attention and prevention methods, you can reduce the risk of developing them. If you experience symptoms such as sharp pain in the lower back or side, pain during urination, nausea and vomiting, blood in the urine, or difficulty urinating, it’s important to seek medical attention right away. By staying hydrated, reducing salt intake, and eating a balanced diet, you can help prevent kidney stones and maintain good kidney health.