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Kidney Stones
Kidney Stones
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What Are Kidney Stones?

Kidney StonesKidney stones are a common health issue that can cause significant pain and discomfort. They are small, hard deposits of minerals and salts that form inside the kidneys and can range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. Kidney stones can cause serious complications if left untreated, so it's important to understand their causes, symptoms, and your treatment options.

Kidney stones are formed when certain substances, such as calcium and oxalate, build up in the urine and begin to crystalize. These crystals can then combine to form a larger stone. Over time, the stone can grow in size and cause significant discomfort as it moves through the urinary tract.

While these stones can occur in anyone, they are more common in men and people over the age of 40. They are also more likely to occur in people with a family history of kidney stones or certain medical conditions that affect their urinary tract or metabolism.

Causes and Risk Factors

Kidney stones can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Dehydration: Not drinking enough water can cause your urine to become concentrated, which can increase your risk of forming stones.
  • Diet: A diet high in calcium, oxalate, and salt can increase your risk of kidney stones. Consuming too much sugar and animal protein can also increase your risk of developing stones.
  • Family history: If you have a family history of kidney stones, you are more likely to develop them yourself.
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as gout, Crohn's disease, and urinary tract infections, can increase your risk of developing kidney stones.
  • Certain medications: Some medications, such as diuretics and calcium-based antacids, can increase your risk of developing kidney stones.

Types of Kidney Stones

There are four main types of kidney stones:

  • Calcium stones: These are the most common type of kidney stones and are formed from calcium oxalate.
  • Uric acid stones: These stones are formed from a buildup of uric acid in the urine.
  • Struvite stones: These stones are often associated with urinary tract infections and are formed from a buildup of magnesium and ammonium in the urine.
  • Cystine stones: These stones are rare and are formed from a genetic disorder that causes the kidneys to excrete too much of the amino acid cystine.

Types of Kidney Stones

There are four main types of kidney stones:

  • Calcium stones: These are the most common type of kidney stones and are formed from calcium oxalate.
  • Uric acid stones: These stones are formed from a buildup of uric acid in the urine.
  • Struvite stones: These stones are often associated with urinary tract infections and are formed from a buildup of magnesium and ammonium in the urine.
  • Cystine stones: These stones are rare and are formed from a genetic disorder that causes the kidneys to excrete too much of the amino acid cystine.

Symptoms of Kidney Stones

Most people don’t know they have kidney stones until a stone moves into their urethra. This means you may have stones inside your kidney that cause no signs or symptoms. These stones may be found accidentally if you get x-rays or an ultrasound for different problems.

If these stones are moving into your urethra or causing a blockage, you can experience a range of symptoms, including:

  • Severe pain in the lower back, side, or belly
  • Pain that spreads to the groin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Cloudy or strong-smelling urine
  • Urinating more often
  • Urinating small amounts
  • Blood in the urine

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. In some cases, kidney stones can cause serious complications if left untreated.

Testing and Diagnosis for Kidney Stones

To diagnose kidney stones, your urologist may perform a variety of tests, including:

  • Physical examination: Your urologist will perform a physical examination to check for signs of pain or discomfort in the lower back, side, or belly.
  • Urinalysis: This test will check for blood, bacteria, and other substances in your urine that can indicate the presence of a kidney stone.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests can help to determine if you have an underlying medical condition that may be causing the formation of kidney stones.
  • X-rays: X-rays can be used to identify the presence of kidney stones and to determine their size and location.
  • CT scans: CT scans are a more detailed imaging test that can provide a clear image of the urinary tract, including the kidneys and any stones that may be present. This test can help determine the stones' size, location, and composition.

Kidney Stone Treatment

The treatment for kidney stones depends on the size and location of the stones and the severity of your symptoms. Some common treatments include:

  • Pain management: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can be used to manage the pain caused by kidney stones.
  • Medications: In some cases, your doctor may prescribe medication to help dissolve the stones and prevent them from becoming larger.
  • Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL): This procedure uses shock waves to break up the stones into smaller pieces that can be easily passed through the urinary tract.
  • Ureteroscopy: This procedure involves inserting a small scope into the urethra to visualize and remove the stones directly.
  • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL): This procedure involves making a small incision in the back to access and remove the stones.

 

GreenLight Laser Therapy, or photovaporization, is an effective minimally invasive treatment for an enlarged prostate (BPH). It is an established standard of care, with over one million men successfully treated worldwide.

Using a specialized laser, the inner portion of the prostate can be vaporized or melted away to relieve the blockage and significantly improve urinary symptoms. This can be done for any size prostate, including very large prostates.

Once under general anesthesia, the procedure takes about an hour. It is an outpatient procedure, so you will go home the same day. Some men will need a catheter for a few days. Compared to traditional treatments, there is a lower risk of bleeding, less catheterization time, and a faster recovery.

Following the procedure, some of your symptoms may temporarily worsen including urinary urgency and frequency. After about 4-6 weeks, those symptoms will resolve and you will see a significant improvement in your baseline symptoms.

Kidney Stone Prevention

To reduce the risk of developing stones, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid risk factors. Some tips for preventing kidney stones include:

  • Drinking plenty of water: Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water per day to help flush out the kidneys and reduce the risk of stones forming.
  • Eating a balanced diet: A diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in salt, sugar, and animal protein can help to reduce the risk of stones forming.
  • Limiting calcium and oxalate: If you are prone to calcium oxalate stones, limiting your intake of calcium and oxalate-rich foods, such as spinach and nuts is important.
  • Avoiding certain medications: If you are prone to kidney stones, it is important to avoid certain medications, such as diuretics and calcium-based antacids, that can increase the risk of stones forming.

 

Urology Center Of Iowa
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