It is estimated that approximately 12% of individuals will have a kidney stone at some point in their lives. Kidney stones are formed in the kidneys when chemicals crystallize in the urine. These stones are usually very small but depending on where a kidney stone is located and if it obstructs or prevents urine from draining the issue can be aggravated.
- Intense and sudden pain located in the side or mid-back
- Cannot find comfortable position, often writhes in pain
When your kidneys cannot effectively dilute the crystal-forming substances, like calcium, uric acid or oxalate, within the kidneys, stones can form. Knowing the type of kidney stone can help determine the cause and how better to avoid getting kidney stones in the future.
Many conditions are similar to the signs and symptoms of kidney stones, so the doctor may need to order tests to confirm that kidney stones are present. Computerized tomography (CT) is the most commonly used test. CT scans can detect the presence of kidney stones very well as well as their location, size, and what the stones are causing.
Ultrasound is another way of testing to find kidney stones and avoids the radiation risk of CT scan. X-rays can also be used to track the movement of already-diagnosed kidney stones through the bladder.
The best treatment for kidney stones is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Hydrating regularly and consistently will avoid a common cause by keeping the urine dilute, and preventing kidney stones from forming.
If prevention doesn't work and you do develop kidney stones, most stones will pass on their own and most treatment is dedicated to alleviating symptoms. Treatment can usually be done from home, with the patient needing to drink lots of fluids and take Ibuprofen.
Some stones may require surgical treatment if they are not able to be passed.
Kidney stones are not life threatening, but extreme pain is attributed with kidney stones in most people. Once a patient has passed a stone, it is very likely another stone will be passed later in life. If stones are recurring over and over, patients may be given medication in case symptoms occur.
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