Do you sometimes experience intense pain in your lower abdominal area? Has urinating become an unpleasant experience because of the excruciating pain and the horrible smell that come with it? If you encounter these types of symptoms, you may have a condition called kidney stones.
Affecting over half a million people every year, kidney stones are a common health problem characterized by the formation of salt and mineral deposits inside the kidneys, resulting in painful urination and other side effects. While they do not usually cause severe damage, they can sometimes be serious enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room.
What are the different types of kidney stones?
Kidney stones come in different types, depending on the material they are made of. The following are some of the most common types:
These are a type of kidney stones that are typically made of calcium oxalate. They are a result of consuming foods that contain high concentrations of oxalate, such as chocolates, nuts, and some fruits and vegetables; or due to metabolic disorders, high vitamin D levels in the body, and intestinal bypass surgery, which all cause a rise in the calcium or oxalate levels in the urine. They may sometimes also appear in the form of calcium phosphate, brought about by renal tubular acidosis or other metabolic conditions.
Uric acid stones
These are a type of kidney stones that are widespread among people who do not drink enough water and fluids. They can also strike those that lose greater amounts of fluids than normal and have a high-protein diet. People who are afflicted with gout and certain genetic disorders may also have an increased risk.
These are a type of kidney stones that are formed due to a urinary tract infection or other infections. They are made of phosphate, calcium, or some other minerals that crystallize inside your kidneys, and they can grow in size quite fast.
What are the common signs and symptoms of kidney stones?
Early on, a kidney stone may not trigger visible signs and symptoms. It only causes them to appear once it starts moving around inside your kidney or finds its way into your ureter, which is the narrow tube that connects your bladder and kidneys. Once it gets to this point, the following are the signs and symptoms that may occur:
- Intense pain in the area below the rib cage
- Pain that spreads to the lower abdominal area and even to the groin
- Pain when passing urine
- Strong and more frequent need to urinate
- Pain that varies in intensity and shifts to different locations because of the movement of the stones through the urinary tract
- Urine that is pinkish, reddish, or brownish
- Urine that is cloudy
- Urine that gives off a pungent odor
- Vomiting and nausea
- If there is an infection, fever and chills may happen
Who are at great risk of kidney stones?
Kidney stones can strike anyone — men and women, adults and children. However, they are more likely to affect those that:
Have a history of the disease
If you have already had kidney stones before, your risk of developing kidney stones in the future is higher than someone who has not had it in the past. Also, if you have a family member who has kidney stones, your odds to be afflicted with them increase.
Have a diet that has high concentrations of sodium, sugar, and protein
If your meals primarily consist of foods that contain high amounts of sodium or salt, sugar, and protein, your risk of kidney stones significantly increases.
Do not drink enough water
If you drink less than eight glasses of water a day, you are not only putting yourself in danger of dehydration, but you are also increasing your odds of developing kidney stones.
Are overweight or obese
People who are overweight or obese commonly encounter problems that impair their vital organs, including their kidneys. Because of their high body mass index or BMI, they are highly likely to get kidney stones than someone who is in good shape and a healthy weight.
Have certain digestive or gastrointestinal diseases
Those who suffer from chronic diarrhea or inflammatory bowel disease have an increased risk of kidney stones. Their digestive systems cannot properly perform the important digestive processes, including the absorption of water and calcium, resulting in the formation of deposits or stones in the urine.
When should you go to a doctor?
There is no reason to delay seeing a doctor the moment you experience any one of the symptoms enumerated above. You need immediate medical care if you experience the following:
- You cannot sit still or remain in a comfortable position because of the high-intensity pain in your side, back, or lower abdomen.
- You are in pain and are vomiting and nauseous.
- You are in pain and experiencing chills and fever.
- You are having trouble passing urine.
- There is blood in your urine.
What is the best treatment for kidney stones?
There are various treatment options available for kidney stones.
If your kidney stones are small, you will not need to undergo surgery or some invasive treatment procedure. You just need to pass that small kidney stone by:
Drinking lots of water
Every day, you should make sure to drink at least eight glasses or up to three liters of water to help your body flush the stones out.
Taking pain relievers
Passing a small kidney stone can still be a bit painful, so consult your doctor about pain relievers. Usually, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and acetaminophen are used to relieve mild discomforts caused by small kidney stones.
On the other hand, if your kidney stones are large, your doctor may inform you that you need to undergo:
This is a type of surgical procedure in which the large kidney stones are removed with the use of small telescopes, tools, and instruments that are inserted inside your body via a tiny incision.
Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy
This is a medical procedure that utilizes sound waves to shatter the large kidney stones into small bits that can be passed in the urine.