How Can I Prevent Kidney Stones
There are several ways to decrease your risk of kidney stones, including:
- Drink water. Drink at least six to eight 8-ounce glasses every day . Staying hydrated helps you urinate more often, which helps flush away the buildup of the substances that cause kidney stones. If you sweat a lot, be sure to drink even more.
- Limit salt. Eat less sodium. You may want to connect with a dietician for help with planning what foods you eat.
- Lose weight. If youre overweight, try to lose some pounds. Talk to your healthcare provider about an ideal weight.
- Take prescriptions. Your healthcare provider may prescribe some medications that help prevent kidney stones. The type of medication may depend on the type of stones you get.
Pain In The Back Belly Or Side
Kidney stone pain also known as renal colic is one of the most severe types of pain imaginable. Some people whove experienced kidney stones compare the pain to childbirth or getting stabbed with a knife.
The pain is intense enough to account for more than half a million visits to emergency rooms each year.
Usually, the pain starts when a stone moves into the narrow ureter. This causes a blockage, which causes pressure to build up in the kidney. The pressure activates nerve fibers that transmit pain signals to the brain.
Kidney stone pain often starts suddenly. As the stone moves, the pain changes location and intensity.
Pain often comes and goes in waves, which is made worse by the ureter contracting as it tries to push the stone out. Each wave may last for a few minutes, disappear, and then come back again.
Youll typically feel the pain along your side and back, below your ribs. It may radiate to your belly and groin area as the stone moves down through your urinary tract.
Large stones can be more painful than small ones, but the severity of the pain doesnt necessarily relate to the size of the stone. Even a little stone can be painful as it moves or causes a blockage.
Imaging Tests To Check For Kidney Stones
Two imaging tests to check for kidney stones are a CT scan and an ultrasound. If the first imaging test is not clear, you may need a second test.
In the past, a CT scan was often used as the first imaging test to check for kidney stones. But, because a CT scan exposes people to radiation, the emergency doctor may suggest an ultrasound instead as the first imaging test.
|What is it?||A CT scan uses x-rays and computers to create three dimensional pictures of your urinary tract .||An ultrasound uses sound waves to create a picture of your kidneys and bladder. It is like the ultrasound used to look at the baby in the womb of a pregnant woman.|
|How is it done?||You lie still on a table that slides into a tunnel-shaped machine. A CT scan does not hurt.||You lie on your back or side, and a health care professional moves a small device around on your belly. An ultrasound does not hurt.|
|Does it expose you to radiation?||Yes, a CT scan exposes you to radiation. Radiation raises the risk of getting cancer.||No, an ultrasound does not expose you to radiation.|
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How Will I Know If I Have A Kidney Stone
To find out the size and type of kidney stone you have, your doctor may do tests, including:
- Blood tests to show if there is too much calcium or uric acid in your blood
- Urine tests to show the type of wastes that are in your urine. For this test, your doctor may ask you to collect your urine over two days.
- Imaging tests, such as an ultrasound, CT scan or X-ray, to show kidney stones in your urinary tract
If you get kidney stones often, your doctor may ask you to urinate through a strainer to catch stones that you pass. Your doctor will then find out what they are made of to decide what is causing your kidney stones and how to prevent them.
About Blood Tests And Kidney Cancer
A blood test is not enough on its own to confirm a diagnosis of kidney cancer. However, certain results could indicate kidney problems and a possible need for further testing.
Standard blood tests are often done during periodic health exams. Certain abnormalities could flag the potential for cancer.
There are a few types of blood tests that might be used in an initial cancer screening. These include:
- Complete blood count. A CBC is a test that measures the levels of several types of cells in your body. People with kidney cancer often have abnormal levels of important cells.
- Basic metabolic panel. This test checks for levels of specific compounds in your blood. For kidney cancer, your doctor will be interested in looking at liver enzymes, calcium levels, blood urea nitrogen, and glomerular filtration rate.
- Serum creatinine.This test can help rule out kidney function issues that may be causing your symptoms. It measures how well your kidneys are filtering your blood. It can be a good indicator of overall kidney health.
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If The Kidney Stone Is Not Causing Any Symptoms Should I Still Be Treated
There are some instances when it is OK to leave a kidney stone untreated. If the stone is small and not causing any pain, there is a good chance that it will pass on its own after it falls into the ureter. Such stones may be followed with “watchful waiting.” This means that the stone is not actively treated, but instead your doctor keeps a check on the stone to be sure that it is not growing or changing. This can be done with periodic X-rays.
Whats The Outlook For Kidney Stones
The outlook for kidney stones is very positive, although there is a risk of recurrence . Many kidney stones pass on their own over time without needing treatment. Medications and surgical treatments to remove larger kidney stones are generally very successful and involve little recovery time.
Its possible to get kidney stones multiple times throughout your life. If you keep developing kidney stones, your healthcare provider may work with you to discover why the stones happen. Once the cause is found, you may be able to make dietary changes to prevent future stones.
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Types Of Kidney Stones
Identifying the type of kidney stone can help determine the cause and treatment protocol, as well as how to best reduce your risk of getting future kidney stones.
- Calcium-based stones. The most commonly found kidney stones are calcium stones, usually in the form of calcium oxalate. Oxalate is a naturally occurring substance found in some foods. In particular, some fruits, vegetables, nuts and chocolate have high oxalate content. A modification of your diet can help reduce the risk of acquiring calcium-based stones.
- Struvite stones. This type of stone is composed of magnesium ammonium phosphate and occur most often from certain types of bacteria caused by urinary tract infections. These bacteria increase the pH in urine, making it less acidic. Eating foods such as meat, dairy and grains can help increase the amount of acids produced in your body.
- Uric acid stones. Uric acid stones occur when the urine has a high acid content and and low pH, and can be caused by not drinking enough fluids, eating a high protein diet or from disorders such as gout.
- Cystine stones. This type of kidney stone results when the body abnormally processes amino acids.
How Should My Kidney Stone Be Treated
Historically, the treatment of kidney stones required major surgery and was associated with long hospitalization and recovery periods. However, in recent years an improved understanding of kidney stone disease, along with advances in surgical technology, has led to the development of minimally invasive and even noninvasive treatments for people with kidney stones.
At Johns Hopkins, we believe that the treatment of a patients stones requires an approach that is unique to that individual. We offer a complete range of state-of-the-art treatment options, including ESWL , ureteroscopy and PERC, and we will discuss with you the advantages and disadvantages of each therapy as they apply to your situation. Our goal is to provide each patient with a clear understanding of the nature of their stone burden as well as the most appropriate course of treatment.
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For People At Increased Risk Of Kidney Cancer
People who have certain inherited conditions, such as von Hippel-Lindau disease, have a higher risk of kidney cancer. Doctors often recommend that these people get regular imaging tests such as CT, MRI, or ultrasound scans at younger ages, to look for kidney tumors. Kidney cancers that are found early with these tests can often be cured.
It is important to tell your doctor if any of your family members has or had kidney cancer, especially at a younger age, or if they have been diagnosed with an inherited condition linked to this cancer, such as von Hippel-Lindau disease. Your doctor may recommend that you consider genetic counseling and testing to see if you have the condition.
Before having genetic tests, its important to talk with a genetic counselor so that you understand what the tests can and cant tell you, and what any results would mean. Genetic tests look for the gene mutations that cause these conditions in your DNA. They are used to diagnose these inherited conditions, not kidney cancer itself. Your risk may be increased if you have one of these conditions, but it does not mean that you have kidney cancer. For more information on genetic testing, see Genetics and Cancer.
Some doctors also recommend that people with kidney diseases treated by long-term dialysis or those who have had radiation to their kidney in the past have regular tests to look for kidney cancer.
What Are The Signs Of Kidney Cancer
Often, there are no signs or symptoms of kidney cancer, especially in its early stages.
Kidney cancer is often found during routine blood work or testing for other concerns. When symptoms are present, they can look like symptoms of less serious conditions, like bladder infections or kidney stones.
Symptoms of kidney cancer may include:
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Diagnosis Of Kidney Stones
Many kidney stones are discovered by chance during examinations for other conditions. Urine and blood tests can help with finding out the cause of the stone. Further tests may include:
- x-rays, including an intravenous pyelogram , where dye is injected into the bloodstream before the x-rays are taken.
Urology Of Greater Atlanta
The team at Urology of Greater Atlanta in Sandy Springs, GA, provides thorough exams and diagnostic testing to identify and locate kidney stones.
After reviewing your symptoms and medical and family history, your doctor completes a physical exam and takes blood and urine samples for testing. The team also uses diagnostic imaging studies, including CT scans, X-ray , and ultrasound, to gather more information about your condition.
Lets look closer at these diagnostic methods.
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Symptoms Of Kidney Stones
Many people with kidney stones have no symptoms. However, some people do get symptoms, which may include:
- a gripping pain in the back usually just below the ribs on one side, radiating around to the front and sometimes towards the groin. The pain may be severe enough to cause nausea and vomiting
- blood in the urine
- cloudy or bad smelling urine
- shivers, sweating and fever if the urine becomes infected
- small stones, like gravel, passing out in the urine, often caused by uric acid stones
- an urgent feeling of needing to urinate, due to a stone at the bladder outlet.
Who Gets Kidney Stones What Are The Risk Factors
Kidney stones are common. According to the most recent data from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, about 11 percent of men and 6 percent of women in the United States have kidney stones at least once during their lifetime. Men are affected more often than women, and overweight and obese people are more likely to get a kidney stone than people of normal weight.
Risk factors include:
- Gender men are more likely than women to develop a kidney stone
- Age older people are more affected
- Race Caucasians are at higher risk
- Certain medications including, indinavir , acyclovir , diuretics , sulfadiazine
- Associated conditions including, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, gout, hyperparathyroidism
- Anatomic conditions urinary obstruction, UPJ obstruction, urinary stasis
Once you have a kidney stone, you are also more likely to develop future kidney stones.
The UCLA study Prevalence of kidney stones in the United States published in European Urology reported on the risk factors that make a person especially likely to develop a kidney stone.
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Why You Get Stones
Part of preventing stones is finding out why you get them. Your health care provider will perform tests to find out what is causing this. After finding out why you get stones, your health care provider will give you tips to help stop them from coming back.
Some of the tests he or she may do are listed below.
Medical and Dietary History
Your health care provider will ask questions about your personal and family medical history. He or she may ask if:
- Have you had more than one stone before?
- Has anyone in your family had stones?
- Do you have a medical condition that may increase your chance of having stones, like frequent diarrhea, gout or diabetes?
Knowing your eating habits is also helpful. You may be eating foods that are known to raise the risk of stones. You may also be eating too few foods that protect against stones or not drinking enough fluids.
Understanding your medical, family and dietary history helps your health care provider find out how likely you are to form more stones.
Blood and Urine Tests
When a health care provider sees you for the first time and you have had stones before, he or she may want to see recent X-rays or order a new X-ray. They will do this to see if there are any stones in your urinary tract. Imaging tests may be repeated over time to check for stone growth. You may also need this test if you are having pain, hematuria or recurrent infections.
What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider
- Do I have a kidney stone or is there another reason for my symptoms?
- What type of kidney stone do I have?
- What size is my kidney stone?
- Where is my kidney stone located?
- How many kidney stones do I have?
- Do I need treatment or will I be able to pass the kidney stone?
- Should I be tested for kidney disease?
- What changes should I make to my diet?
- What type of procedure should I have to get rid of the stones?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Kidney stones can be frustrating at best and agonizingly painful at the worst. To stop your situation from getting worse, you should be evaluated by a healthcare provider as soon as possible. The pain can get severe, and surgery might be necessary. Remember: dont skip your prescriptions, drink lots of water and follow any dietary guidelines. Also, remember that kidney stones are a temporary condition. They wont bother you forever.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/03/2021.
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When Urinalysis And Other Urine Tests Help In Kidney Stone Diagnosis
In addition to imaging tests, doctors usually order urine tests to help determine what type of stone you may have and why you are developing stones. This information can help your doctor better advise you about how to prevent future kidney stones, says Naim Maalouf, MD, a professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. At least 31 percent of people diagnosed with kidney stones develop another one within 10 years.
Kidney stones are made of minerals and other substances that can be found in the urine that can be identified with testing. Types of kidney stones include calcium stones , uric acid stones, struvite stones, and cystine stones.
Notably, a urinalysis test and urine culture can also tell doctors whether you also have an infection, which is a potentially life-threatening complication in combination with a kidney stone, says Seth K. Bechis, MD, an assistant professor of urology at UC San Diego Health in California. If urine is trapped behind an obstructing stone in the ureter, urine can become infected. This scenario can cause an infection of the kidney tissue or spread to the bloodstream.
Doctors may perform the following urine tests in kidney stone diagnosis:
A urinalysis with microscopy can also help doctors find evidence of bleeding or infection, says Dr. Maalouf.
From this urine sample, doctors can tell whether people are predisposed to stone formation. We call it a stone risk profile, says Maalouf.
What Causes Kidney Stones
When substances in the urinesuch as calcium, oxalate, and phosphorusbecome highly concentrated, kidney stones can form. People who do not drink enough fluids may also be at higher risk, as their urine is more concentrated. Kidney stones often do not have one specific cause, although some factors may increase your risk.
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