Each year kidney stones affect more than 1 million Americans, but in most cases they pass easily from the body. For others, kidney stones cause a number of symptoms including pain (which may be severe), blood in the urine, nausea or vomiting. The pain from a kidney stone may occur in different parts of the body depending on where the stone is located in the urinary tract. The pain may begin towards the back and move down to the lower abdomen or groin area.
“Kidney stones form when crystals contained in the urine bind together,” explains Mason Holden, M.D., urological surgeon on the medical staff at Doctors Hospital at White Rock Lake. “Calcium combined with oxalate or phosphate make up the most common type of kidney stones. An infection may cause a stone to develop. In some cases, medications can be used to control crystal formation.”
The body may be able to excrete smaller stones from the urinary track with little or no problem. For larger stones or stones that aren’t passing easily, one of the most commonly used treatments is called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL), or lithotripsy. Lithotripsy uses sound waves to break up larger stones into smaller pieces that can pass more easily. Patients who are considered good candidates for this type of procedure have stones that are moving through the urinary tract and are found in the kidneys or upper ureter.
During lithotripsy, doctors use either X-rays or ultrasound to pinpoint the exact location of the stone. The patient is then placed either into a special tub filled with water or onto a water-filled cushion. The ESWL targets the area where the stone is located with shock waves from outside the body. In most cases, the patient is given either a sedative, pain medication, or some type of anesthesia before the procedure starts. Antibiotics also may be prescribed.
Lithotripsy takes about an hour. Patients may be able to begin normal activities in one to two days. They should drink lots of water to help fragments leave the urinary tract and may need to continue pain medication as these fragments pass.
“If you’ve had a kidney stone, you are more likely to have another one,” says Dr. Holden. “To prevent the formation of kidney stones, tests can be done to determine what is causing them in order to develop a prevention plan. If you are prone to developing kidney stones, your doctor may recommend drinking enough water so that you produce at least two quarts of urine a day.”
For a free referral to a physician who treats kidney stones, please call 800-887-2525. To learn more about kidney stones, take the free, online Kidney Stone Quiz on the Doctors Hospital at White Rock Lake website at www.DoctorsHospitalDallas.com/KidneyStoneQuiz.
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