Kidney stones will be the most painful experience many of you will experience throughout your life. The pain of passing a stone can be excruciating, and when it finally does come out, you’ll wonder how something so small could have had you in so much pain. If you haven’t had a kidney stone before, thankfully there are ways you can prevent it from ever happening to you. Here are five things to know about kidney stones.
How Do Kidney Stones Form?
Kidney stones are essentially crystallized deposits of minerals and salts that form in the filtering mechanism of your kidney. When your urine is extremely concentrated, the minerals come out of solution, sticking together and forming small rocks.
What Does a Kidney Stone Feel Like?
As the stone moves from your kidneys to your bladder, you will start to feel severe pain along the sides and near the small of your back. This pain won’t be constant but will come in waves as your body attempts to move the stones through the passages from your kidney to your bladder.
What is the Best Way to Prevent Kidney Stones?
Water, Water, Water – The best way to keep kidney stones away is to stay hydrated. That’s because the more water you drink, the more diluted your urine is and the less likely the salts and minerals will come out of solution. If you’re one of those people who can’t stand plain water, add some citrus juice to give it a shot of flavor. Heck, even drink more orange juice or lemonade (within reason). The citrate in these fruits can help prevent stones from forming.
Other ways of preventing kidney stones are to eat more foods with calcium. Don’t take supplements, however, as this can actually increase your risk. Instead, eat leafy greens, drink low-fat milk or some cheese.
Medications that Help Prevent Kidney Stones
If you’re especially prone to get kidney stones, your doctor may prescribe medication that can help. For example, if you get calcium stones, a common medication is thiazide diuretic.
If you have stones that come from other minerals, such as uric acid, you want to keep your urine less acidic. Common medications in these cases are Zyloprim or Aloprim, both brand names for allopurinol. This helps reduce the levels of uric acid in your blood, so less is filtered out by your kidneys.
The best way to prevent stones without medication, however, will always be to drink water. The goal should be to produce urine that is as clear as possible. If yours is darker than a pale yellow, you need to drink more fluids.
Treatment Options for Kidney Stones
If you do need to pass a kidney stone, the treatment options depend on its size. For smaller stones, your doctor will recommend that you take Tylenol or ibuprofen to alleviate the pain. If it’s extremely painful, an alpha-blocker can help relax the muscles in your ureter (the tube that connects your kidney and your bladder), making that leg of the journey much less painful.
If you have larger stones, then there are other treatments available. One of the most common is using extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy (ESWL). This treatment uses sound waves to break larger stones into smaller ones that can be passed more easily. There are some significant side effects, however. You’ll experience some moderate pain and you’ll get bruises and possibly blood in your urine as the shockwaves pummel the surrounding tissue.
The most drastic solution for kidney stones is of course surgery. This is either done using laparoscopic surgery, where small instruments remove kidney stones through a small incision in your back. This is usually done under general anesthesia and requires a couple of days to recover from.
The more horrifying surgery is done by inserting a small camera up through your urethra into your bladder, where small tools are then used to break up the stone. This can be done with local anesthetic and can be an outpatient procedure.
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