Ask anyone who has gone through the experience and they’ll tell you that passing a kidney stone can be extremely painful.
Kidney stones are hard deposits of minerals and salts that form within the kidneys and, if they become lodged in the ureter (the duct through which urine passes from the kidney to the bladder), it may block the flow of urine, causing the kidney to swell and the ureter to spasm painfully.
Luckily, a kidney stone usually does not cause permanent damage, as long as it is detected and treated in a timely manner. Also, depending on your situation, you may be able to weather the pain of a kidney stone by taking medication and drinking lots of water until it passes. However, if a kidney stone becomes lodged in your urinary tract and causes an infection or other complications, surgery may be necessary.
The Causes of Kidney Stones
Kidney stones tend to form when urine contains more crystallizing substances — such as calcium, oxalate and uric acid — than the fluid in urine can dilute. In addition, your urine may lack substances that prevent crystals from bonding together.
You’re at a higher risk of developing kidney stones if:
- You have a history of kidney stones in your family.
- You’ve already had one or more kidney stones.
- You do not drink enough water, live in a warm or dry climate, or tend to perspire a lot.
- You eat a diet high in protein, sodium (salt), and sugar.
- You are overweight or obese.
- You have had gastric bypass surgery, inflammatory bowel disease, or chronic diarrhea that affects your absorption of calcium and water.
- You have been diagnosed with certain conditions, such as renal tubular acidosis, cystinuria, hyperparathyroidism and repeated urinary tract infections.
- You frequently take certain supplements and medications, such as vitamin C, dietary supplements, laxatives, calcium-based antacids, and certain drugs used to treat migraines or depression.
Kidney Stone Symptoms
Typically, a kidney stone will not trigger symptoms until it moves around inside the kidney or passes through one of the ureters. It is then you may experience severe, sharp pain in your side and back beneath your ribs. The pain comes in waves and varies in intensity. It can radiate to your lower abdomen and groin, and you might feel a burning sensation when urinating.
Other signs and symptoms of a kidney stone include:
- Pink, red, or brown urine
- Cloudy or odorous urine
- A persistent need to urinate or urinating in small amounts
- Nausea and vomit
- Fever and chills, if there is an infection
If you experience any of these worrisome symptoms, seek medical attention. Your doctor may also recommend preventive measures to reduce your risk of recurrent kidney stones, especially of you are at an increased risk of developing them.
Kidney Doctor in the Greater Boston area
At Commonwealth Nephrology Associates, our dedicated team of board-certified physicians provide an aggressive approach to treating chronic kidney stones and are committed to preventing their recurrence. They can determine the type of kidney stones you have, develop an individualized care plan, and provide medical management of the condition on an ongoing basis.
Whether you are prone to kidneys or are dealing with one for the first time, you should not assume you will be fine once the stone passes. In some cases, you may not be able to pass a stone and will instead require surgery. Also, repeated episodes of kidney stones may lead to kidney disease. If you are in pain and suspect you may have a kidney stone, it’s best to consult with one of our nephrologists, who can assess your condition and prescribe a care plan focused on prevention and management.
We have seven locations for your convenience, including two full-time main offices in Norfolk and Natick, and five satellite offices in neighboring communities, all with free parking. To schedule a visit at the location nearest you, call (617) 739-2100 or request an appointment online.