Kidney Stone Treatment
Understanding Kidney Stones and Their Causes
Urine contains many dissolved minerals and salts that may form stones. Some stones stay in the kidney, and do not cause any problems. Sometimes, the kidney stone can travel down the ureter, the tube between the kidney and the bladder. If the stone becomes lodged in the ureter, it blocks the urine flow from that kidney and causes pain.
The Kidneys and Urinary System
The kidneys, ureters and bladder are part of your urinary tract. The kidneys make urine from water and your body’s waste. The urine then travels down the ureters into the bladder, where it is stored. Urine leaves your body through the urethra.
Potomac Urology specializes in treating kidney stones and can provide some helpful tips to prevent future kidney stones. Learn more and schedule your appointment at our offices in Woodbridge or Alexandria, VA today!
What are Kidney Stones Made of?
Calcium stones(80% of stones)
Calcium stones are the most common type of kidney stone.
Uric acid stones(5-10% of stones)
Uric acid crystals do not dissolve well in acidic urine and instead will form a uric acid stone.
Struvite/infection stones(10% of stones)
These stones are related to chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs). These stones are often large, with branches, and they often grow very fast.
Cystine stones(< 1% of stones)
Cystinuria (too much cystine in the urine) is a rare, inherited metabolic disorder. Cystine stones often start to form in childhood.
What are the Signs of Kidney Stones?
- A sharp, come-and-go type pain in the back and side, often moving to the lower abdomen or groin.
- A feeling of intense need to urinate.
- Urinating more often or a burning feeling during urination.
- Urine that is dark or red due to blood.
- Nausea and vomiting.
What Causes Kidney Stones?
- Low urine volume
- Bowel conditions
- Medical conditions
- Family history
How are Kidney Stones Diagnosed?
When a person has blood in the urine (hematuria) or sudden abdominal or side pain, tests like an ultrasound or a CT scan may diagnose a stone. These imaging tests tell the health care provider how big the stone is and where it is located.
How are Kidney Stones Treated?
Medical Expulsive Therapy
Smaller stones are more likely than larger stones to pass on their own. The most common medication prescribed for is tamsulosin (Flomax), which relaxes the ureter, making it easier for the stone to pass.
Waiting 4-6 weeks for the stone to pass is safe as long as the pain is bearable, there are no signs of infection, the kidney is not completely blocked and the stone is small enough that it is likely to pass. You should drink normal amounts of water.
- Shock wave lithotripsy (SWL) – Shock Wave Lithotripsy (SWL) is used to treat stones in the kidney and ureter by using shock waves to break the stone into small pieces.
- Ureteroscopy (URS) – Ureteroscopy (URS) is used to treat stones in the kidney and ureter by using a small camera and laser to break the stone.
Once the stone has been removed whole or in pieces, a temporary stent is placed in the ureter.
- Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL) – Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL) is the best treatment for large stones in the kidney. PCNL involves a small back incision through which a camera is passed and the stone is broken up. You temporarily require a tube in your back for this procedure.
Why am I developing stones?
You may be eating foods that are known to raise the risk of stones. You may also be eating too few foods that protect against stones or not drinking enough fluids.
If you are at high risk for getting stones in the future, a 24-hour urine collection can be done. This test will reveal the levels of different stone-forming substances in your urine.
Testing the stone will determine what type of stone it is. This information helps decide the best way to prevent future stones.
What can I do to prevent getting a stone again?
Drink enough fluids each day.
You should drink at least 3 liters of liquid each day. This equals about 3 quarts (about ten 10-ounce glasses). But it’s best to drink mostly no-calorie or low-calorie drinks. This may mean limiting sugar-sweetened or alcoholic drinks.
Reduce the amount of salt in your diet.
Sodium can cause both urine calcium and cystine to be too high. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other health groups advise not eating more than 2,300 mg of salt per day.
Eat the recommended amount of calcium.
If you take calcium supplements, make sure you aren’t getting too much calcium. On the other hand make sure you aren’t getting too little calcium either.
You can usually get enough calcium from your diet without supplements if you eat three-to-four servings of calcium-rich food.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily is recommended for all people who form kidney stones.
A serving means one piece of fruit or one potato or one cup of raw vegetables. For cooked vegetables, a serving is ½ cup.
Eat foods with low oxalate levels.
Nearly all plant foods have oxalate, but a few foods contain a lot of it. These include spinach, rhubarb and almonds. It is usually not necessary to completely stop eating foods that contain oxalate.
Eat less meat.
If your diet is increasing your risk for stones, you should eat less meat, fish, seafood, poultry, pork, lamb, mutton and game meat than you eat now.
The type of stone and the urine abnormalities you have will determine what type of medication may help prevent kidney stones for you.