Kidney Stones 101
People can often have kidney stones without realizing it. But when they are large enough to be felt as they pass, or large enough to block the flow of urine, the pain they can cause is unforgettable. Most people describe it as a severe pain that comes and goes in waves, just under the ribs or in the lower back. In addition to the pain, many people also feel nausea, suffer from fever, chills, and/or vomiting, and they may notice burning as they urinate and notice blood or a cloudiness to their urine.
The most common cause of kidney stones is dehydration - either from not taking in enough fluids or from losing too much through perspiration. When there isn't enough fluid in the body, it can cause a deficit in the chemicals that naturally break down minerals in the body, allowing them to build up and gather together to form crystals.
There are four types of kidney stones. The most common type of kidney stones are Calcium and they often occur in people who either have overactive parathyroid glands or take in too much Vitamin D. These type of stones are also very common in people who are suffering from Chronic Kidney disease.
Another type of kidney stones is called Struvite and these can sometimes form in women after they recover from a urinary tract infection. These can be quite serious and painful, causing damage with their jagged edges and large size.
The third type of kidney stone happens in men more often than women. It is the Uric kidney stone, caused by too much uric acid in the urine. These are often seen in people with gout or people who eat too much protein.
The fourth type of kidney stone is called a Cystine. They are quite rare and only show up in people with Cystinuria, which is a hereditary disease. This type of kidney stone is generally not a surprise, since people with Cystinuria are diagnosed when they are young and treated all their lives.
If you suspect that you have a kidney stone, your doctor will probably want you to collect your urine around the clock for a day. Often, just drinking a lot of water will help you pass a stone on your own.
If you do have a stone that is too large to pass naturally, there are several other treatments available. With the Extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy (ESWL), sound waves are sent directly to the kidney stone in an attempt to break it up. This treatment is non-invasive.
If you have to have surgery, your doctor may perform a Nephrolithotomy, where he removes the kidney stone through a small incision in your back with an instrument called a Nephroscope. If you have a stone caught in your ureter, however, your doctor will need to pass a scope through your bladder in a procedure known as a Ureteroscopic Kidney Stone Removal.
Of course, the best way to treat kidney stones is to take measures to prevent them from developing in the first place. Drinking enough water every day to prevent dehydration is the best thing you can do. Being aware of your protein consumption is important, as well.
Kidney stones can sometimes lead to Chronic Kidney Disease, so prevention is always your best bet. If kidney stones are a concern for you, your doctor can advise you on your personal risk factors and ways that you can lower your chances of developing kidney stones. As they say, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!"
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