You may have heard of kidney stones, but unless you have had a painful experience with one, you may not know what it really is!
Kidney stones are solid mineral and salt deposits that form inside the kidneys. Kidney stones have many reasons and can affect any part of the urinary tract – from the kidneys to the bladder. Often times, stones form when urine is concentrated, allowing minerals to crystallize and stay together.
Kidney stones can be very painful. However, the stones generally do not cause any permanent damage if they are diagnosed on time. You may only need to take pain relievers and drink plenty of water to pass kidney stones, depending upon your condition. In other cases – like if stones are lodged in the urinary tract, they are associated with a urinary tract infection or cause complications – surgery may be necessary.
Most small kidney stones do not need surgical treatment. You may be able to pass a tiny stone by drinking up to 2 to 3 liters (1.9 to 2.8 liters) daily, which may help flushing stone through the urinary system flow. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, to drink enough fluids – mostly water – to make your urine clear or almost clear.
Your physician can give you medication to help you accomplish kidney stones. This type of medicine, known as alpha-blockers, relaxes the muscles in the ureter, which enables you to move kidney stones faster and with less pain.
Kidney stones that cannot be treated with conservative measures – either because they are too large to be passed on their own or because they cause constant bleeding, kidney damage, or urinary tract infections – may require further treatment.
The method involves using sound waves to break down the stones. For specific kidney stones – depending on size and location – your doctor may recommend a procedure called lithotripsy.
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To remove a stone smaller than the ureter or the kidney, your doctor can operate a lighted, thin tube (ureteroscope) with a camera across the urethra and bladder into the ureter. Once the stone is found, special tools can trap it or split it into pieces that pass into the urine. Your doctor can place a small tube (pregnant woman) in the ureter to reduce inflammation and aid healing. You may need general or local anesthesia during this procedure.
You can reduce your risk of kidney stones if you drink water all day. For people with a history of kidney stones, doctors usually advise passing about 2.6 liters (2.5 liters) of urine daily.
If you reside in a tropical, dry climate or exercise frequently, you may need to drink more water to produce enough urine. If your urine is clear and transparent, you are likely to drink enough water.
Read more: Fighting Kidney Stones
If you tend to grow calcium oxalate stones, your doctor may recommend limiting foods rich in oxalate. These include rhubarb, beets, okra, spinach, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, nuts, tea, chocolate, and soy products.
Adopt a diet low in salt and animal protein. Decrease the amount of salt you eat and choose non-animal protein sources, such as legumes. Keep eating calcium-rich foods, but be careful with calcium supplements. Calcium in the diet does not affect the risk of kidney stones. Unless directed by your doctor, continue to eat foods that are high in calcium.
Although kidney stones are painful, they usually do not cause long-term damage if treated promptly!