Even if you know little about kidney stones, you’ve probably heard that they hurt. That’s why it is important to know how to prevent and treat them. Lifestyle changes and medication can help in preventing the occurrence of kidney stones. Treatment depends on how big they are and how serious your symptoms appear to be.
Kidney stones defined
The kidneys filter waste from the blood and in the process, they create urine. Stones can form when salts and other minerals in the urine stick together. Some can be as small as a grain of sugar while others are much larger. You won’t know they’re there unless they cause a blockage. According to WebMD, if they come loose and get into the ducts leading to the bladder, you may experience a lot of pain.
Treating kidney stones
Your doctor will determine the best treatment for your kidney stones based on the type of stone and what caused it. Some small stones can be passed by drinking lots of water and taking a pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. The Mayo Clinic says doctors may also prescribe alpha blockers to relax the muscles in the ureter and help the kidney stone to pass quickly and with less pain.
Other methods may have to be explored if your kidney stones are too big or they are causing bleeding, kidney damage or urinary tract infections. Your doctor may use extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy or sound waves to break up your stones. ESWL creates strong vibrations which break the stones into several pieces. This procedure is done under sedation or light anesthesia. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour.
Another option is a procedure called percutaneous nephrolithotomy which involves the surgical removal of a kidney stone through a small incision in your back. Your doctor may suggest this surgery if ESWL did not work. It is carried out under general anesthesia and you will have to stay in hospital for a day or two.
Smaller stones in the ureter or kidney can be removed with a thin tube equipped with a camera. It is inserted through your urethra and bladder to your ureter. Tools are used to grab the stone or break it up.
The final option we will mention here is parathyroid gland surgery. Some stones are caused by overactive parathyroid glands, which are located at the corners of your thyroid gland. Calcium levels that are too high can lead to the formation of kidney stones.
Since hyperparathyroidism can sometimes be due to a small, benign tumor on one of the parathyroid glands, removing the tumor can halt the development of kidney stones. If another condition is causing the glands to produce more parathyroid hormone, treating the condition may be the answer. The United Kidney Stone Research Council has extensive information on remedies for kidney stones.
Preventing kidney stones
You may be able to prevent kidney stones through lifestyle changes and medications. People with a history of kidney stones are usually advised to drink enough water during the day to pass about 2.5 liters of urine each day. Your urine should be light and clear. You may also want to restrict foods rich in oxalates. These include sweet potatoes, tea, spinach, beets and soy products. Opt for low-salt diet with minimal amounts of animal proteins.
Kidney stones can be difficult and painful to pass. If you are unsuccessful in preventing them, know that there are several treatment options which your doctor can explore.
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