K is for Kidney Stones

This, Too, Shall Pass

It may only be the size of a grain of sand, but a kidney stone can feel like it’s the Rock of Gibraltar if you’re trying to pass it, say those who’ve survived the experience. And once you’ve had one, there’s a 50 percent chance of recurrence within five years if you haven’t taken preventive measures, noted Herkanwal Singh Khaira, M.D., a urologist with NorthBay Medical Group.

Drinking at least eight glasses of water daily is the best way for people to prevent stone formation.
–Herkanwal Singh Khaira, M.D.

Kidney stones can range in size from a sugar crystal (a few millimeters) up to a ping pong ball (6 centimeters). Most people won’t even know they have one in their kidney, but it will become painfully clear the moment it moves around or slips into your ureter—the tube that connects the kidney to the bladder.

Kidney stones are created when certain minerals and salts in urine join together and crystalize in the kidney. The most common stones are made of calcium compounds, while others are mostly made of uric acid. Their formation can be triggered by a host of things—from eating too much protein or not drinking enough water, to urinary tract infections or taking certain medications or supplements.

“Fad diets are notorious for increasing kidney stone formation,” Dr. Khaira said. Discovering what the stones are made of will help determine what type of preventive steps you can take to avoid getting them again.

“Hydration, hydration, hydration! Drinking at least eight glasses of water daily is the best way for people to prevent stone formation,” Dr. Khaira added, as water helps dilute the minerals that collect in your kidneys.

Avoiding certain foods such as chocolate, nuts, spinach, beets, animal protein and tea and reducing your intake of salt, alcohol and Vitamin C may also help. Maintaining a healthy weight is also advised, as obesity is linked to an increased risk of kidney stones.

Is That Kidney Stone Pain?

Kidney stones may not cause any symptoms until they move around in the kidney or become lodged in your ureter. If that happens, you may experience:

  • Severe pain in the side and back, below the ribs
  • Pain that comes in waves and fluctuates in intensity, or spreads to the lower abdomen and groin
  • Painful urination
  • Cloudy, foul-smelling or pink, red or brown urine
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Persistent need to urinate
  • Fever and chills if an infection is present
  • Urinating in small amounts

You should seek immediate medical attention if the pain is so intense that you can’t sit still or find a comfortable position, have pain that is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, fever and chills, if you have blood in your urine or have difficulty passing urine.

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