Kidney stones refer to the hard pebbles that form due to mineral and salt deposits in the kidneys. Though these stones impair kidney function, they can travel to any part of the urinary system. In case these stones increase in size and have a sharp structure, they can cause a lot of pain and can also sometimes cause kidney failure.
While deciding the best treatment for kidney stones, doctors pick an approach based on where the stones are.
Signs of Kidney Stones
When the stones are inside the kidneys, there may be no discernible signs of kidney stones. However, once they move to the ureter, patients can experience any of the following symptoms:
- Pain below the ribs, the sides and back
- Painful urination
- Cloudy urine
- Fever and chills (this occurs if the patient has an infection too)
- Discoloured (pink, brown or red) urine
- Frequent urination
- Pain that occurs in frequent waves
- Pain that radiates towards the groin
If you experience any of these symptoms, get a Health Check with MediBuddy to confirm the diagnosis. The doctor will decide the best treatment for kidney stones based on the types of kidney stones you may have.
Types of Kidney Stones
By definition, kidney stones refer to mineral or salt stones that occur due to different types of minerals or salts. Based on what they are made of, there are four types of kidney stones:
- Calcium oxalate kidney stones: A majority of kidney stones are made of calcium oxalate. This mineral is created by the liver and also enters your body naturally through food. Some of the foods that cause kidney stones include chocolate, nuts, spinach, French fries, rhubarb, beets, bran flakes, and potato chips.
- Uric acid kidney stones: These stones occur when you do not drink enough water. They form due to high levels of urea deposits. They can also occur in people who eat protein-rich diets.
- Cysteine stones: Cysteine stones occur due to a hereditary problem that leads to the kidneys excreting high levels of amino acids.
- Struvite stones: These stones occur as your body’s response to a UTI (Urinary tract infection). They grow quite quickly and often exhibit very few symptoms.
Treatment for Kidney Stones
The best remedies for kidney stones depend on the size of the stone.
Treating small stones
- Drinking water: Drinking water is one of the best natural treatments for kidney stones as it helps your body expel the stone. While passing a kidney stone can be quite painful, it is the least invasive way to remove it. Your doctor may also prescribe pain relievers.
- Alpha blockers: If your body requires a slight nudge to help pass the stone, your doctor may prescribe alpha blockers. These relax the muscles in the urinary system. As a result, the stones pass quickly and cause less pain.
Treating large stones
If you have kidney stones that are too large to pass naturally, your doctor will recommend a more hands-on approach. In such cases, the best treatments for kidney stones include:
- Sound waves: Doctors do not always rely on medicine to break up kidney stones; sound waves work perfectly in this regard. Your doctor may use Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) to create vibrations that break the stone. Do not be alarmed if you notice the following side effects:
- Blood in the urine
- Bruising on the back
- Internal bleeding around the kidneys
- Surgery: If the stones are very large, the doctor may recommend percutaneous nephrolithotomy. This is a surgical procedure that removes the stones through an incision in the back with the help of telescopes and small instruments. It generally takes 1-2 days to recover from this procedure. The side effects include:
- Slight swelling
- Ureteroscope: Ureteroscopes are used to dislodge small stones in the ureter. These scopes have a camera at one end that helps doctors locate the stones. Once the stones are found, the doctor may use smaller scopes to break them. If there is a lot of swelling, the doctor may also insert a stent in the urethra to decrease it. The side effects of this include:
- Pain or discomfort while urinating
- Parathyroid gland surgery: Some patients suffer from recurring kidney stones that occur due to an overactive parathyroid gland. This can occur due to benign tumours on the gland. If this is the case, doctors may remove the tumour to stop recurring kidney stones from forming.
Preventing Kidney Stones
You can make certain lifestyle changes to minimize the risk of developing kidney stones. Some of these include:
- Drinking water regularly.
- Minimizing oxalate-rich food in your diet.
- Indulging in a low salt and low animal protein diet.
- Exercising caution with calcium supplements.