A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO KIDNEY STONES: KNOW THE SYMPTOMS, CAUSES, AND TREATMENTS HERE!
There are various lifestyle diseases that plague our lives due to our dietary changes that include fast foods, highly acidic and gastric-inducing drinks, and more. We rarely have enough time to take care of ourselves as well to hydrate ourselves and ensure that we are in good health through stress relief practices, exercise, therapy, and other relaxation methods.
One such lifestyle issue is developing a kidney stone. It can be very painful and be a part of the types of lifestyle diseases that can alter a part of your life significantly. It can be very painful in extreme cases, however, it is nothing to take lightly even if the size of your kidney stone is not large enough to go through surgery or tolerate the pain of.
If you are in doubt that you or a loved one may be suffering from a kidney stone, this article is for you. Keep reading to understand what a kidney stone is, how it is formed, the various symptoms to look out for, precautions, and various treatment methods!
WHAT IS A KIDNEY STONE?
The function of your kidneys is to remove the waste that your body cannot absorb for the benefit of its functioning. Such fluids are then removed from your blood to make urine that exits the body. However, sometimes, if these wastes are not accompanied by enough fluids, they can stick in your kidneys and slowly build up to solidify and form kidney stones.
Kidney stones can be scientifically known as renal calculi. These are solidified substances that are made of crystals. While it is called a ‘kidney stone’ it can be identified to exist beyond the kidney and into the process of urination as well as the organs that help that process.
SYMPTOMS OF KIDNEY STONES
The size of your kidney stones can differ based on your unique circumstances. Small kidney stones can be quite unidentifiable unless you have regular check-ups. Large kidney stones will, however, provide symptoms that can make daily functioning pretty painful. These are some of the kidney stone symptoms you should look out for.
- You may experience pain of varying levels while you are urinating. The level of pain can signify the size of the kidney stone. Such symptoms of kidney stones can increase in pain if ignored. Contact your doctor immediately at the first feeling of unusual uneasiness.
- You may also experience blood dripping into your urine and staining your toilet if gone unnoticed. This can be due to the kidney stones irritating your organs and the rush of the urine hurting the solidified mass attached to the layer of your organs.
- You may experience a sharp kidney stone pain in the lower abdomen region of your body. This can be due to the unusual activity of your body trying to fight the kidney stone.
- Nausea and vomiting are some other symptoms that you may face where your urinary process is affected and hence plays a domino effect in affecting the rest of your organs’ processes. Of course, this sole symptom does not necessarily point towards the development of a kidney stone so you should not worry about such a drastic health condition being present, but you should find the cause of it such as stomach flu, etc.
TYPES OF KIDNEY STONES
The kidney stones material that they are made up of differ from person to person. They largely depend on the type of food you consume and their nutritional and compositional characteristics and value. Here are some types of kidney stones you may be diagnosed with.
- Calcium Kidney Stone
Such kidney stones are the most common amongst kidney stone patients. They consist of oxalates calcium, however, they can also be made up of calcium phosphate, maleate, etc. You are at a greater risk of developing a kidney stone if you consume high amounts of chocolate, potato chips, beets, and more. Try and consume less of oxalate-rich products to reduce the chances of developing this type of kidney stone.
- Struvite Kidney Stone
Women with urinary tract infections are most prone to developing such a type of kidney stone. Urinary tract infections can become drastic and create larger stones than usual. This can lead to the obstruction of the pathway of urination and cause a kidney infection. This infection can be easily recognised and treated. In the treatment process you should ensure that the existence of any struvite kidney stones are looked out for.
- Cystine Kidney Stone
There are various types of acids present in our body that aid various essential processes. One such acid is known as cysteine which is naturally occurring. However, it does not belong in the kidneys. When it leaks into the urine, it can put you at risk of developing cystine kidney stones.
The cystine kidney stone type is extremely rare. If you are an individual who is suffering from a genetic disorder called cystinuria, you are likely to experience this kind of kidney stone development.
- Uric Acid Kidney Stone
When you are consuming meals that consist of purines rich in their levels, it can make your urine prone to high acidic levels. Purine rich foods are often animal proteins like fish and other types of meat. If your urine becomes too acidic, a uric acid kidney stone is likely to develop.
A uric acid kidney stone is more likely to develop inside a male body than female. If you are going through chemotherapy, you might develop a uric acid kidney stone.
WHAT ARE SOME PRECAUTIONS YOU CAN TAKE?
There are various causes for kidney stones to develop in your body. In order to ensure its prevention from day 1, you can follow the following actions to reduce your chances of developing a kidney stone before it is too late.
- Stay hydrated as much as you can. Kidney stones develop when there is not enough liquids accompanying the waste products that need to be removed from your system. Drink at least two litres of water everyday, or increase it based on your food consumption.
- If you have a diet that has unnecessarily high levels of salt, glucose, or protein, you are at the risk of developing kidney stones.
- You may develop calcium kidney stones if you suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases. An inflammatory bowel disease can increase the calcium absorption by your kidneys.
- If you are taking medications such as anti seizure drugs, calcium antacids, or diuretics, you are at the risk of developing kidney stones.
WHAT CAN BE THE POSSIBLE CAUSE FOR KIDNEY STONES?
- Medical History
If you have had kidney stones before, you may be predisposed to developing another one. It is very common for previous kidney stone patients to develop them after recovery. In such cases, stricter treatment measures may be taken.
If somebody in your family has faced kidney stones, the make-up of your body may cause you to be more likely to develop kidney stones as well. Of course, it also goes the same way where you may pass down genes to your children who may be able to develop kidney stones as well.
If you are obese, your body has more materials to deal with than the average person. This can affect your urinary tracts with too much glucose to deal with. It can lead to the development of calcium kidney stones. In order to rid yourself of obesity, you must develop a healthier lifestyle filled with stress relief activities, exercising, eating healthy, etc. A personal trainer paired with a doctor can help you overcome your obesity and prevent any possibility of developing kidney stones.
- Polycystic kidney disease
If your kidney has already been weakened by pre-existing conditions like a cyst development or so, you may develop kidney stones easily. This can only be prevented by making the dietary adjustments and medication you need to treat the polycystic syndrome, specifically if it has affected your kidneys in the past.
TREATMENT OPTIONS AVAILABLE
Kidney stone treatment can ease you of your pain immensely. While there are complicated procedures that may be difficult to explain in layman language, they are often prescribed when large kidney stones must be removed. Kidney stones can be the size of a small homeopathic pill or as big as a pearl. Smaller kidney stones can be worked upon on a daily basis with medication and hydration. Here are some of the kidney stone treatments.
- Various medical tests
It is important for you to get some tests done before starting your treatment plan. These include a urine test, blood test, CT scan, and more if advised by your doctor. These will help understand the unique conditions of your kidney stone to understand the nature of the root of your cause of kidney stone development to treat it best.
Oftentimes if your kidney stone is small, fluids are recommended to be able to wash the stones out. However, in case of large kidney stone types, you will be provided pain medication to deal with the abdominal pain. Medications like allopurinol also known as zyloprim can be provided in case of uric acid kidney stones.
Alpha blockers can also be provided to relax the muscles in your urinary tracts and help pass the kidney stone easily. There is thiazide diuretics that can help in the prevention of calcium kidney stones forming if it is a possibility that is highly likely for you. Sodium bicarbonate can also be given in cases of uric acid kidney stones to reduce the acidity of your urine. Phosphorus solutions can help prevent the possibility of a calcium kidney stone developing in your body.
You may also be prescribed other pain relief medications like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen sodium.
Shock wave lithotripsy is a treatment method that utilises shock waves to break through the kidney stones and make them smaller pieces. This will help the body pass these stones through your urinary tracts and exit your body as urine. It is often done with anaesthesia so you will not feel the pain that may come with such medical shock waves.
General anaesthesia accompanies this treatment option as well. A long medical tool is used to find the kidney stone. It then proceeds to remove it with its tube-shape. However, if it is too big to fit through the tube, it will be broken into smaller pieces with the use of a laser. This way, the urinary tract can be big enough for the pieces to pass through with your urine.
- Percutaneous nephrolithotomy
This is a surgery that only takes place in extremely rare cases. A tube is inserted into your kidney directly. It is complex to explain unlike a ureteroscopy, however, they’re quite similar in procedure. It is more complicated and requires two to three days of recovery under medical supervision to ensure full recovery.
EXPERIENCES OF PEOPLE WITH KIDNEY STONE YOU MAY IDENTIFY WITH
It is always good to have a support system to help you through rough times of turbulent health. This can include your family, close friends, and loved ones. However, it is not the same as knowing people who have gone through the same pain as you, or worse, and have survived through it. It helps you mentally heal and feel better as you start your recovery journey to understand while the pain is immense, it is temporary.
Here are some experiences of real people who have been interviewed by health organisations about their experiences with kidney stones. They are meant to help you through these rough times to understand you are not alone in this pain- and recovery is in sight for sure.
“It was what I can imagine a knife stuck in my back being twisted all around would feel like.” Anonymous, intermountain health org.
“My pain started out as a minor discomfort in my right abdomen. As it got worse I would get really sweaty, cold, and nauseous. I was unable to sit or lie comfortably, even walking was painful. I went to the emergency room (ER) and it turns out I have a 7 mm x 5 mm kidney stone.” Anonymous male, medicine.
“A female nurse told me it’s the worst pain a man can ever feel, because a man can’t go through labor. I had mine when I was 25; it looked like a coffee grain. Before it passed, I literally thought I was going to die. They gave me a morphine shot right in the vein, and it didn’t do a thing. They followed that with Vicodin and I passed out. I woke up a few hours later feeling just ok.” Anonymous, intermountain health org.
“There’s a hidden benefit to experiencing kidney stones– all other resulting pain you’ll ever experience will now have a new benchmark, and will seem the lesser upon comparison. Honestly, after breaking my wrist in seven places, my first reaction was, “Well, at least this doesn’t hurt as much as a kidney stone!” Anonymous, intermountain health org.
“They ran urine testing in labs for several years, my body had stones like a gravel pit. They could not figure out anything other than genetic reasons. Well, it turns out it was my cholesterol medication; now no more kidney stones for 8 years and I am healthy. Medicines have side effects.” Gravel pit male, emedicine health.
A kidney stone can vary in sizes. They can be larger than your urinary tracts, or small enough to pass through those tracts while urinating. Symptoms can range from blood in your urine to vomiting and nausea. They are signs to look out for diligently and not pass them out as insignificant rare occurrences. Prevention methods like ensuring hydration, reducing the acidity in your food, understanding side effects of medications you are already on, etc. are important. There are various treatment methods you can opt for that include effective pain medications and medications that will help the specific type of kidney stone that is present in your body. Options like surgery and shock waves may also be recommended in severe cases, but worry not, as they take place with anaesthesia in your body. In this article, you have also been able to read about the various experiences of people who have gone through similar or worse experiences with kidney stones. We hope that those quotations helped you feel less alone in your experiences or feel better that you still have time before your kidney stone causes you to develop worse symptoms and pain accompanied with it. We hope you have a well-guided treatment path prepared specifically for your unique conditions by a professional who can ensure your recovery!