Your kidneys serve a very important purpose: they flush out the toxins from your body, removing waste from your blood, which gets turned into urine. But if there is too much waste and not enough fluid in your blood, the waste can stick in your kidney, creating clumps, otherwise known as kidney stones. These stones can be as small as a grain of sand or grow as big as a gold ball, but even the smallest of stones can cause excruciating pain when they pass through your urethra. Kidney stones can happen to anyone at any time; in fact, roughly 1 out of every 10 people in the U.S. will get a kidney stone at some point in their lives. So how do you know if you have one? The best way to know if you are experiencing a kidney stone is to familiarize yourself with the symptoms so you can know what to expect; you should also know how to treat them, as well as ways to prevent these horrible little stones.
What Are Kidney Stones?
Everyone’s kidneys produce salt and minerals made up of calcium or uric acid, which eventually travel to other parts of the urinary tract. But if you don’t drink enough water, which helps clear the toxins in your body, too much salt and minerals will collect in your urine; the excess minerals will not dissolve properly and will clump/crystallize in your kidneys.
“Typically, you start getting symptoms once you get obstruction,” explains Steven Rosenberg, MD, a urologist at The Iowa Clinic. “The kidney kind of has a funnel where urine exits that’s called the ureteropelvic junction. An obstruction usually occurs when the stone passes out of the kidney and gets stuck in that funnel or in the ureter, the tube that’s between the kidney and the bladder.”
In other words, you can have kidney stones in your kidneys for years without feeling symptoms, until the stone moves through the ureter, or the tube that pushes urine from your kidney to the bladder. This movement can be very painful – so painful, in fact, that more than a half a million people go to the emergency room each year for kidney stones. In some cases, your doctor will tell you that it will pass on its own, but in other cases, you might need to have a procedure done, which will help break down or remove the stones.
As we mentioned earlier, anyone can get a kidney stone, but men are more likely to get them than women, and non-Hispanic Caucasians are more likely to have them than people of other ethnicities. There are some risk factors that can contribute to your likelihood of developing kidney stones, including if:
- You have had kidney stones before.
- You have a high protein, sodium, or sugar diet.
- You have polycystic kidney disease or another cystic kidney disease.
- You are overweight.
- You are dehydrated.
- Someone in your family has had kidney stones.
- You take medications, such as water pills, that can lead to dehydration.
- You have a condition that causes your urine to contain high levels of cystine, oxalate, uric acid, or calcium.
Symptoms Of A Kidney Stone
If you have ever had a kidney stone, you know the excruciating pain that comes with it, causing misery and agony. But many people are unaware that a kidney stone can be around for a long time without you knowing it, and if it is small enough, you will experience no symptoms at all, even as it passes. But if it is big and begins to pass and gets lodged, you will definitely know…
“You can have a kidney stone for 20 years and never know it. Then, all of the sudden, for no reason, it just decides to pass. And that’s the moment you develop pain,” says Steven Rosenberg, MD.
Symptoms that accompany these large and painful kidney stones include:
- Pain when urinating
- Constant urge to urinate
- Cloudy or foul-smelling pee
- Sharp pain in your back or lower abdominals- you will usually feel it in your lower back, side, underneath your rib cage, lower abdominals, or groin.
- Blood in urine
- Fever and chills
- Nausea and vomiting
Kidney Stone Treatment
Treatment depends on the size of the kidney stone. If it is causing pain and blocking your urinary tract, your doctor will conduct urine and blood tests, and order x-rays, and/or a CT scan. If it turns out the stone is small, your doctor will give you pain medicine and tell you to drink a lot of fluids; however, if it is large, your doctor might treat it with:
- Shock wave lithotripsy– An hour-long procedure during which shock waves break up the kidney stones into smaller pieces, allowing them to pass.
- Ureteroscopy- The doctor uses a long tool to find and remove the stone or break it into smaller pieces.
- Percutaneous nephrolithotomy– A surgical procedure during which a tube will be put into the kidney to remove the stone.
How To Prevent Kidney Stones
Dietary and lifestyle changes are your best way to avoid the buildup of minerals in your kidney, and prevent kidney stones from occurring. It is especially important to drink enough fluids throughout the day to help flush out toxins. You should also:
- Limit sodium and animal protein in your diet- these are acidic and may cause kidney stones
- Limit vitamin C supplements- consuming too much vitamin C can lead to stones.
Kidney stones are fairly common, and can pass without any issues; however, in some cases, passing one can be extremely painful. If you experience any of the symptoms above, see your doctor immediately; they will figure out the best way to get rid of the kidney stone by determining whether it is small enough for medication or large enough that it needs to be broken down.
Testing and treatment for kidney stones is necessary in order to help ease the pain and to make sure they are flushed out of your body safely – and if you do not have sufficient health insurance, all of this can be costly. EZ can find you a plan that provides the right amount of coverage at an affordable price, and we’ll do it at no cost to you. Our trained agents work with the top-rated insurance companies in the country, so they can compare plans in minutes. We will help guide you through the process and sign you up, all for free! No hassle or obligation. To get free instant quotes, simply enter your zip code in the bar above, or to speak to a local agent, call 888-350-1890.