Kidney stones are small, hard deposits of mineral and acid salts on the inner surfaces of your kidneys. They are created when minerals, such as calcium, get concentrated in the urine and crystallize. Normally, the substances that make up kidney stones are diluted in the urine. There are many types of kidney stones. Calcium oxalate stones are the most common. Uric acid stones are the second most common.
Kidney stones can be very painful when they pass. As the stones pass from the kidney into the ureter, back pressure, called hydronephrosis, develops in the kidney. The pain usually starts in the flank and radiates to the front. Some people develop nausea and vomit, while some may see blood in the urine. Fortunately, kidney stones are treatable and preventable. Drs. Catanese, Shah and Jones have extensive experience in all the up to date techniques used in the treatment of bladder, ureteral and kidney stones.
Q. Are kidney stones genetic?
A. They can be. If you have relatives who have had kidney stones, you are likely to develop them as well.
Q. Can you have kidney stones without pain?
A. If the stones are small, they will be able to pass without causing pain or other symptoms.
Q. Is there kidney stone treatment without surgery?
A. It depends on the size of the stone. Most small stones won’t require any kind of invasive treatment and can be dealt with by:
- Drinking water to flush it out
- Taking over-the-counter pain relievers to ease discomfort
- Taking prescribed alpha blockers to relax the muscles in the ureter, allowing the stone to pass
Even if the stones are large, surgical intervention may not be required. Treatments include:
- Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) to break up the stones
- Ureteroscopy, where a long, thin tube with a light and camera is inserted through the urethra and bladder to the ureter to view and remove/break up the stone
No matter the size of the stone, your physician may recommend certain medications to prevent or reduce the risk of specific types of stones developing.
Q. Are kidney stones deadly?
A. In most cases, no. However, if a stone fails to pass and is not treated, it can lead to a serious infection as well as issues with the kidney(s).
Q. What do kidney stones feel like?
A. Symptoms of kidney stones can include:
- Constant and painful urination
- Fever and chills (if there’s an infection)
- Intense pain that occurs in waves in the ribs, abdomen, groin or genitals
- Nausea and vomiting
These, combined with additional symptoms, can mimic other conditions, including ectopic pregnancy, appendicitis and hernias.
Q. What are kidney stones made of?
A. Types of kidney stones include:
- Calcium stones, which are made of calcium compounds—particularly calcium oxalate—due to high calcium levels in the body
- Struvite stones, stones that typically form as the result of an infection
- Uric acid stones that form from uric acid as the result of lack of fluid intake, gout, high animal protein intake or inflammatory bowel disease
- Cystine stones, which occur due to a hereditary condition where the kidneys produce an excess of certain amino acids (cystinuria)
Q. How can kidney stones be dissolved?
Depending on the type of stone, kidney stones may be dissolved using prescribed medications or ESWL. Speak to your physician before attempting any home remedies for treating kidney stones.
KIDNEY STONES TREATMENTS
Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy (ESWL) is a non-invasive procedure that delivers sound waves through the flank to fragment a stone. The sound waves are directed under X-ray guidance.
Ureteroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure in which a small camera is passed into the ureter. This allows the urologist to directly visualize the stone. Laser destruction of the stone can be performed as well.
Ureteral stents are temporary tubes placed through the ureter to help bypass stones and swelling (edema) often associated with passing stones. Stents are internal and placed during cystoscopy.
Percutaneous Surgery is a minimally invasive procedure to remove large stones (larger than 2 cm) in the kidney. The camera is passed directly into the kidney through a tract in the flank. The stone is visualized destroyed and then removed through the camera.
Dissolving stones can be an option for uric acid stones. These account for 15% of all stones form in the population. Unfortunately, calcium stones cannot be dissolved with medication.
The treatment depends on the location of the stone. Only your urologist can determine the best treatment option for kidney stones.
Dr. Catanese, Dr. Shah and Dr. Jones are members of the New Jersey Kidney Stone Center.
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