Kidney stones are a common disorder of the urinary tract system. They are small, hardened deposits of minerals. Stones occur when urine becomes concentrated, and minerals clump together and crystallize.
They can be extremely painful to pass if they become too large or get stuck. Pain is caused by blocked urine flow, not the stone. As pressure builds, the kidneys swell and pain occurs. It’s like a logjam — in your urinary tract.
Treatment depends upon type of stone (its chemical composition) and its location. There are multiple types of kidney stones. These include calcium oxalate, uric acid, struvite and cystine stones, among others. Knowing what type of stone you have can help you take action to prevent future recurrence. However, once you have a stone, you are likely to develop additional stones if you do not make dietary modifications or take prescribed medication.
Common symptoms of kidney stones include:
- Extreme pain in the back and side
- Pain that comes in waves
- Blood in urine
- Urge to urinate frequently
- Burning sensation when urinating
Increase fluid intake. Drinking more water may help pass stones.
Medication. To reduce pain and to control the composition of urine, which may be contributing to kidney stone formation.
Shock wave therapy. Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL). An outpatient, non-invasive procedure that uses sound waves, created outside the body, to break kidney stones into small particles so they can pass more easily through urinary tract. Takes about an hour to perform with the patient receiving a general anesthetic. Side effects may include blood in urine, bruising, urinary tract infection and discomfort as the stone fragments pass.
- Ureteroscopic stone removal. This procedure is usually performed if the stone is in a ureter (a tube that carrier urine from a kidney to the bladder). The stone is removed with a small instrument called a ureteroscope. The ureteroscope is passed into the body through the urethra and bladder into the affected ureter. Sometimes a laser is used to break the stone into tiny fragments so they can be removed safely.
- Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL). Performed if the kidney stone is too large for ESWL or if the stone has a certain chemical composition. The stone is removed through a tiny incision in the patient’s back using a tube-like instrument called a nephroscope. This procedure is performed in a hospital with the patient receiving general anesthesia. A brief hospitalization follows. Most people are able to return to work within a few weeks.