Kidney Stones

When you have a Kidney Stone

It can start as a mild ache in your back, then become a stabling pain like none you’ve had before. If you have a kidney stone, you know the pain can be unbearable. So you’ll be happy to hear that kidney stones often can be prevented. Read on to learn more about kidney stones, their treatment, and how to reduce your risk of getting stones in the future.

Symptoms of Kidney Stones

Kidney stone symptoms include:

  • Mild to severe pain, which typically starts in the midback or side (flank) but can move to the front and down to the groin.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • More frequent urination
  • Burning with urination
  • Blood in the urine

What Causes Kidney Stones

Some of the minerals in urine, such as calcium, promote the growth of crystals. Others prevent it. Normally, a balance is kept in the levels of these minerals. An imbalance can cause crystals to form. The crystals can then bind together into kidney stones. This mineral imbalance is often caused by dehydration (too little water in the body). It can also be caused by eating certain foods.

Risk Factors for Kidney Stones

Risk factors are things that make you more likely to develop kidney stones. For instance, people who don’t drink enough water are at higher risk of getting kidney stones than people who do. Assess your risk factors by answering “YES” or “NO” to the questions below. The more times you answer “YES”, the higher your chances of forming kidney stones.

  • Do you drink fewer than eight glasses of water a day?
  • Have you had a kidney stone before?
  • Has anyone in your family had kidney stones?
  • Are you between the ages of 30 and 50?
  • Do you live in a hot climate?
  • Do you have frequent urinary tract infections?
  • Do you have a history of gout or bowel disease?
  • Is your diet high in sodium (salt) or animal protein?
  • Do you often have cola, black tea, chocolate, spinach, or nuts?
  • Are you overweight?

Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy

Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) is the most common procedure used to treat kidney stones. It uses sound waves to break stones into small pieces. This makes stones easier to pass. ESWL is typically used for stones in the kidney and upper ureter.

How ESWL Works

During ESWL, a machine generates sound waves outside the body. These waves pass though the body into the kidney stone. They break up the stone into small, sand like pieces. These pieces can then pass easily out of the body in the urine. The sound waves are focused on the kidney stones. So, there is little impact to the skin and nearby tissues. X-rays are taken before and during the procedure to locate the stone and make sure it’s broken up.

What to Expect

During ESWL, general anesthesia is most often used (you’ll be asleep). You’ll likely go home the same day of the procedure. A few days later, you may have an x-ray done. This will check that the stone was completely broken up. If a stent was placed you may have it removed at this visit. Your doctor may suggest a follow-up appointment in a few weeks or months.

Risks and Complications of Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy

ESWL has some risks and possible complications. They include:

  • Need for repeat procedure
  • Stent side effects
  • Infection
  • Internal Bleeding (Very Rare)