If you’ve ever had a kidney stone, you know just how excruciating it can be. The good news is that there are expert nephrologists who can help you prevent them from recurring. We’ll start by better understanding what kidney stones are, what causes them, and which lifestyle changes may help you prevent them.
What Are Kidney Stones? What Are the Symptoms?
Kidney stones are hard deposits made up acid salts and minerals that form inside the kidneys. Stones form because the urine becomes concentrated, thus allowing minerals to crystallize and stick together. Kidney stones can be as tiny as a grain of sand so that you may not even know when you’re passing them. Others can be the size of a pebble so that it blocks your urine flow, causing intense pain. Some have even related the pain of passing a kidney stone to childbirth.
A kidney stone does not cause symptoms unless it moves around within your kidney or passes into your ureter (the tube connecting the kidney and bladder). When that happens, symptoms can include pain when urinating, cloudy or foul-smelling urine, lower abdominal or groin pain, nausea/vomiting, the constant urge to urinate, and frequent urination.
Causes of Kidney Stones
In order to prevent future kidney stones, it is important to know what causes them in the first place. Doctors who specialize in knowing and caring for kidneys, known as nephrologists, dedicate their careers to analyzing the causes of kidney stones. What they have found is that there can be multiple causes of kidney stones. Kidney stones can affect any part of the urinary tract, from kidneys to bladder.
The following is a list of factors that can increase your risk of developing kidney stones:
- Not Drinking Enough Water: When we don’t drink enough water, our bodies can’t make enough urine to dilute the things that can turn into stones. If this happens, your pee can look dark, rather than clear or pale yellow like it should. This can be a warning sign that you need to drink more water.
- Certain Medications: Medications such as certain antibiotics, drugs to treat HIV and AIDS, and certain diuretics used to treat high blood pressure can all cause kidney stones.
- Certain Foods: Diet plays a large role in whether or not we develop kidney stones. Foods that contain oxalates, such as spinach, grits, and bran, foods that are high in sodium, and animal protein can all lead to the development of kidney stones.
- Certain Medical Conditions: There are certain medical conditions that can encourage kidney stones to form, such as: Type 2 diabetes, gout, and parathyroidism.
- Obesity: If you’re obese, you’re almost twice as likely to develop a kidney stone. In addition, people who have had weight loss surgery are also more likely to get stones.
- Gut Issues: When we have bowel problems that cause diarrhea, our bodies make less urine. Therefore, if you have an inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, you may be more susceptible to developing kidney stones.
Preventing Kidney Stones
Knowing and understanding the causes of kidney stones can go a long way in preventing one from forming. Simple changes like drinking more water or changing your dietary habits can help. However, a lot depends on the size, type, and frequency of your kidney stones.
The best way to prevent a kidney stone is to get an expert evaluation and care from a board-certified nephrologist. These specialists can determine if there are any underlying factors or diseases that may put you at risk of developing kidney stones or making them worse. A qualified nephrologist can help develop a personalized care plan to treat and prevent kidney stones and medically manage your condition on an ongoing basis.
Let us help you make kidney stones a thing of the past. The board-certified nephrologists at Commonwealth Nephrology Associates provide an aggressive approach to treating chronic kidney stones. To make an appointment at one of our seven offices conveniently located within the Boston area, call (617) 739-2100 or request an appointment online.