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Recognizing the Symptoms of Kidney Stones

By |2018-08-21T08:39:59-04:00March 29th, 2018|Categories: Health A-Z|

By Troy Sukkarieh, MD

Kidney stones are often the uninvited guests to the most significant days of our lives.

Because they can strike without much warning, I’ve treated patients for kidney stones on their wedding day, graduation day, and even before – and during – their honeymoon. Unfortunately, kidney stones don’t care about your major milestones!

Kidney Stone Causes

Kidney stones are becoming more common, and there is some debate in the medical community about why. Lack of hydration plays a significant role, as do poor diet, hereditary and environmental issues.

Men are slightly more prone to developing kidney stones than women. Stones develop from different minerals found in urine. The most common type is calcium oxalate. Other types include calcium phosphate, uric acid and triple phosphate magnesium, which usually signals a chronic infection.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Kidney Stones

Most kidney stones are painless until they begin to move, which is why they can seem to develop suddenly at the least convenient times. Once the stone begins to move through the urinary tract, symptoms can include:

  • Blood in your urine
  • Severe nausea
  • Pain in the lower side and back
  • Pain radiating to the abdomen and groin
  • Painful urination
  • Fever and chills – If you experience a fever and shaking chills, seek medical attention immediately, as this can be a sign of sepsis, a serious bloodstream infection.

An obstruction of the kidney can cause kidney failure; this is particularly dangerous for the one in 1,000 people who are born with only one kidney.

Treating Kidney Stones

If the stones are small, patients are encouraged to pass them naturally. If the stones are larger, there are several ways to treat them, including:

  • Lithotripsy, which uses sound waves to break the stone into smaller pieces. (This treatment option isn’t recommended for pregnant patients.)
  • Ureteroscopy, an endoscopic technique that goes through the bladder to extract the stone
  • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy, a surgical technique that goes through a small incision in your back
  • Open surgery, which requires a larger incision in the abdomen, may be used in rare cases

In my experience, over-the-counter herbal “stone breaker” supplements are not effective for breaking up kidney stones.

Preventing Kidney Stones

If members of your family are prone to kidney stones, you probably will be, too. To avoid developing kidney stones:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Stay active
  • Avoid salty and/or processed foods
  • Maintain a healthy weight

If you do develop a kidney stone, after it passes or is removed, ask to have it analyzed. This will provide helpful information about what dietary changes you may need to make to help prevent future stones.

robotic surgeon and urologyTroy Sukkarieh, MD, is a board-certified urologic surgeon specializing in robotic and advanced laparoscopic surgery. He is on staff at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold and can be reached by calling 866-CENTRA7.

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