Gary S. Oshinsky MD, FACS
The summer season brings with it an increased risk of kidney stones. Kidney stones are composed of salts and minerals that normally stay dissolved in the urine. However, when these salts are present in excessive amounts, they can form crystals and eventually become large enough to form stones. Once formed, the stones may stay in the kidney causing no symptoms at all. In fact many people with stones are completely unaware they have them. However, if they move from the kidney into the ureter (tube that connects the kidney to the bladder), significant pain may result. Common symptoms include:
– Severe cramping back pain.
– Abdominal pain.
– Nausea and vomiting.
– Blood in the urine.
You should contact your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of these symptoms.
A stone can be diagnosed on a sonogram, x-ray, or CT scan.
Fortunately, most stones will pass without any intervention. However, if they don’t they can be treated easily by using shock waves (lythotripsy) to break them into smaller pieces which allows them to pass naturally. Occasionally, it is necessary to remove them by inserting a scope into the urinary tract and placing a stent (a flexible tube) that can be inserted to allow the urine to drain and help pass the stones.
There are several ways of preventing stones:
– Drink 8-10 glasses of water a day.
– Lemonade can actually prevent stones.
– Limit the intake of coffee and teas.
– Do not add salt to foods.
– Do not consume excessive amounts of meat.
– Increase dietary fiber.
– Dairy intake should be in moderation.
Kidneys stones are painful but definitely preventable. You can avoid them by following the simple guidelines outlined above. If you think you may have a kidney stone, please contact you primary care physician.