What Are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones are small solid mineral masses that form inside of the kidney. Stones often consist of calcium, oxalate, and phosphorus minerals that are left over after the body takes what it needs. These left over minerals make their way to the kidneys to be washed from the body in the form of urine. The minerals bond together and form small stone deposits in the kidney. Kidney stones can range in size from a couple millimeters to a couple centimeters.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Kidney stones are suspected when a patient presents with blood in his or her urine and severe unexplainable flank pain. The presence of stones can be confirmed with an ultrasound or Computerized Tomography (CT scan). Blood and urine tests may also be performed to look for evidence of stone-causing markers and/or signs of infection.
While they can be very painful, stones that are less than 5mm in size can generally pass through the urethra on their own. Dr. Jones explains, “pain and nausea medicine may be needed as a comfort measure for the patient, but the stone itself will find its way out.”
Larger stones will need to be removed with the assistance of your doctor. There are three standard treatments that urologists use to remove kidney stones: shock wave lithotripsy, ureteroscopy, and percutaneous nephrolithotomy.
Shock wave lithotripsy is a non-invasive procedure that uses shock wave energy to break up the stones residing in the kidney. Using ultrasound imaging to locate the stone, the shock wave is aimed at the specific stone and breaks the minerals down into smaller pieces that can then pass through the urethra and leave the body naturally. It is important to note that the shock waves do not pose a threat to the surrounding bones or organs. The shock waves are designed specifically to target the kidney stones only.
Depending on the location and amount of pain a patient is experiencing, ureteroscopy may be necessary. A tube-like instrument is routed up the urethra into the bladder to the ureter. Your urologist is able to visualize the stone and either remove it entirely or break it up into small, passable pieces.
Percutaneous nephrolithotomy is the surgical removal of the kidney stone. A small incision is made in the patient’s back in the area of the kidney stone. Special equipment is required to extract the stone. Some surgeons may use shock wave lithotripsy during the procedure to help break up larger stones with more direct energy without making additional incisions that can potentially damage the surrounding tissue.
Tips for Eliminating Risk Factors
According to Dr. Jones, “hydration is extremely important to your urinary tract and will help your body naturally flush those stone causing minerals.” Drink up!
Diets high in animal protein, fish, shellfish, nuts, and spinach can increase your risk of developing kidney stones. Sticking to regular serving sizes and maintaining a variety of foods in your diet will reduce your chances of developing stones.
A metabolic evaluation may be indicated to see if there are other factors that can help to prevent recurrent stone disease.
Get in touch with Blue Ridge Urological Associates today and schedule a time to talk to one of our specialists at one of our Staunton area locations.