Kidney stones are hard deposits made of minerals and salts that form inside your kidneys. They can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a pearl. Kidney stones can cause pain and discomfort when they pass through the urinary tract.
There are several types of kidney stones, including calcium stones, struvite stones, and uric acid stones. The type of kidney stone you have can affect the treatment options available to you.
Kidney stones can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- Dehydration: Not drinking enough fluids can increase the concentration of minerals in your urine, which can lead to the formation of kidney stones.
- Diet: Eating a diet that is high in salt, animal protein, or oxalates (found in certain foods such as spinach and nuts) can increase the risk of developing kidney stones.
- Medical conditions: Some medical conditions, such as hyperparathyroidism (an overactive parathyroid gland) and inflammatory bowel disease, can increase the risk of developing kidney stones.
- Family history: If you have a family history of kidney stones, you may be more likely to develop them.
Treatment options for kidney stones depend on the size and location of the stone, as well as the severity of symptoms. Small kidney stones may pass on their own, and can be treated with pain medication and increased fluid intake to help flush the stones out of the body. Larger stones may require more aggressive treatment, such as:
- Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL): A non-invasive procedure that uses shock waves to break the stone into smaller pieces that can be passed through the urinary tract.
- Ureteroscopy: A procedure in which a small scope is inserted through the urethra and into the urinary tract to locate and remove the stone.
- Percutaneous nephrolithotomy: A surgical procedure in which a small incision is made in the back, and a scope is inserted through the incision to locate and remove the stone.
It is important to follow your doctor’s recommendations for preventing future kidney stones, which may include medications to prevent stone formation, changes to your diet and fluid intake, and regular check-ups.