FAQs about Kidney Stones

Below are numerous questions that are frequently asked about kidney stones. The information has been divided into three articles – one focused on the types and symptoms of kidney stones with accompanying kidney stone pictures; the next on the causes of kidney stones; and the third on available treatments and descriptions of surgical procedures.

What is a kidney stone?

Kidney stones are hardened mineral deposits that form in the kidneys. They begin as minute particles that bond together into crystal formations that eventually develop into stones. A kidney stone can be the size of a sand grain or they can reach golf ball proportions. A person can have one or they can develop a number of kidney stones.

Are there different types of kidney stones? If so, what are they?

Calcium kidney stones tend to be the most common followed by cystine, struvite, and uric acid kidney stones. Each type of stone has a specific origin or cause that must be treated individually. To view these types of stones, click here to see some kidney stone pictures.

How do I know if I have a kidney stone?

You may have a kidney stone for a month or a year before you begin to wonder what is going on. At some point, the stone grows large enough to signal that something is not quite right. The pain may start as a dull ache on your back and side areas. As the body tries to expel the stone, the result is a constant, severe pain. Another sign may be a burning sensation when urinating, the appearance of blood in the urine, and an increase in the frequency and urgency to urinate.  Other signals to watch for are nausea, vomiting, and contact pain at the lower abdominal area.

Why are kidney stones so painful?

Many women have actually stated that the pain from kidney stones is worse than that experienced during childbirth. Kidney stones tend to form within a kidney’s soft tissue and then move through the kidneys and urinary system as it grows larger. The movement causes pain and bleeding. The medical term for the effects caused by a kidney stone is referred to as nephrolithiasis and is more commonly known as renal stone disease.

Who can get kidney stones?

While anyone can get kidney stones, some people are at greater risk than others. Those with the greatest probability are people with a genetic inclination towards kidney stones. In general, four out of men can experience kidney stones between the ages of 20-60 years of age. Other triggers may include:

  • Chronic dehydration. A combination of very hot weather, severe sweating and minimal fluid intake.
  • Diets that contain excess meat protein, calcium, oxalates, and salt.
  • Urinary and gastrointestinal disorders, including urinary tract blockage, chronic urinary infections, any bowel disease.
  • People who are paralyzed or are on extended periods of bed rest.

What generally causes kidney stones to form?

Kidney stones originate from a liquid and mineral imbalance in the urine. In order to function properly, the kidneys must balance the right fluid and material levels. When an imbalance occurs, the body is overwhelmed by excess materials that it cannot absorb or dissolve. As a result, the urine is left to deal with the extra substances that build up and eventually form the crystals that lead to the formation of kidney stones.

Can a kidney stone pass out of the body on its own without treatment? If so, how long does this usually take?

Most small stones do not require any intensive treatment for them to be expelled from the body. This process usually takes anywhere from a couple of hours to a few days, depending on the type of stone as well as how much fluids you take or how you change your diet. Large stones must be dissolved or broken up through the use of a medical procedure or medicine before they can be passed.

I have a kidney stone, which one is the best of all kidney stones treatments?

There is no one single best treatment to get rid of kidney stones. The right treatment depends on the type, size, composition and quantity. Every solution comes with benefits and complications. Not every treatment works the same way for every person either. In order to be successful, however, the treatment must be able to effectively dissolve the stone within the kidneys. A prime example that is helping thousands of people is Uriflow, a revolutionary botanical solution that has been scientifically proven to dissolve kidney stones and eliminate pain.

What treatments are available to get rid of kidney stones?

There is a range of available kidney stones treatments, surgical treatments, dietary guidelines and pharmaceuticals available to get rid of kidney stones and prevent further occurrences. These options include medication therapy, ureteral stent, ureteroscopy, percutaneous lithotripsy or open surgery.

How do I know if I need surgery for my kidney stones?

You may be a candidate for kidney stone surgery if the stone:

  • Has not been expelled after a reasonable amount of time and is causing a great amount of pain and discomfort.
  • Continues to grow.
  • Becomes too large to pass out of the body without intervention.
  • Blocks the urine flow.
  • Causes ongoing urinary tract infections.
  • Damages the kidneys or results in constant bleeding.

What is Lithotripsy? What are the benefits and complications involved?

There are several types of lithotripsy procedures. All of these options are often done on an outpatient basis with only some requiring the use of anesthesia. Recovery time is only a few days. The doctor uses an ultrasound machine to send out numerous high-energy shockwaves which pinpoint and shatter the kidney stones into a fine powder that can be passed out of the body through the urine with no pain or discomfort. The most frequent complications are blood in the urine and temporary cramping pain.

What other medical procedures are available for kidney stones?

Parathyroid surgery is used for kidney stone removal when the stone is either too large or located in an area where lithotripsy cannot effectively destroy it. Ureteroscopy is a fiber optic device used for small stones located in the middle or lower part of the ureter. Considered the most invasive of all procedures, open surgery requires large incisions and manual removal of the stone, leading to weeks of required recovery time.

Do kidney stones come back?

Yes. Without preventive treatment as well as dietary changes and healthier lifestyle, a new stone can develop within a year or two of the first kidney stone. Nearly 50% of all people who have had a stone are likely to get another one over a period of 5-10 years. The percentage rises to 80% likelihood when taken over the period of their lives.

Are there any types of medications that prevent kidney stones?

There are prescription medications that help some patients. These include diuretics, such as hydrochlorothiazide, Allopurinol, penicillamine or tiopronin, which help flush out the excess substances in the urine. Other kinds of medications are also available and may be prescribed by your doctor. Uriflow, made of natural elements, is available over-the-counter and has been scientifically proven to help break up, pass and prevent future kidney stones.

Should I drink a lot of cranberry juice?

The answer is yes and no. For people who have frequent bladder infections, cranberry juice helps increase the volume of urine and the frequency of urination. This helps minimize bacterial growth. However, the answer is a resounding no for people who have already experienced kidney stones because it can encourage new stones to develop. If a person already has a stone in their urinary tract, the acidic nature of cranberry juice will cause further irritation.

What is a kidney stone stent and how is it inserted?

A stent is a hollow flexible tube used by doctors to encourage drainage of fluids after surgeries. Based on the stone size, its location and the severity of the pain or infection, a kidney stone stent may be inserted to drain the area around the stone fragments left behind after procedures like lithotripsy. A cystoscope is inserted into the bladder through the urinary opening. Once the ureter, also known as the drainage tube for the kidney, is found, the stent is pushed into the kidney. The kidney stone stent has to remain inside the kidney until most of the stone fragments have been expelled from the body. This can take anywhere from one to two weeks.

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