Urinary tract issues like kidney stones are a growing problem in the United States. It is expected that 1 in 10 adults will have a kidney stone at some point in their lives, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Therefore, it’s important to learn the warning signs for kidney stones and know how to manage your risk. Regular check-ups with your physician can reduce your chances of having complications from a severe kidney stone by detecting the issue early.
The kidneys are an important organ that process approximately 200 quarts of blood in order to remove two quarts of waste and excess water daily through the urine. This process can be disturbed by the presence of kidney stones, which harm the kidneys and urinary tract.
Kidney stones are hard mineral and salt deposits that form inside the kidneys, but they can affect any part of the urinary tract. Kidney stones often have no definite cause, but can be linked to several risk factors. Dietary factors, high doses of vitamin D, intestinal bypass surgery and metabolic disorders can increase a person’s risk for developing kidney stones.
Symptoms of kidney stones often include pain in the sides and lower back, below the ribs, as well as the lower abdomen and groin. Pain may occur during everyday activity or while urinating. Patients might also experience discoloration in the urine, a persistent need to urinate, urinating small amounts, nausea and vomiting.
Simple diagnostics tests such as blood and urine testing, image testing with X-rays, ultrasound testing and computerized tomography (CT) tests, can detect the presence of kidney stones. Once diagnosed, a doctor will choose a treatment option for kidney stones based on their severity.
In most cases, patients can usually pass kidney stones with proper medical care. Passing kidney stones can be painful, but normally causes no permanent damage. A physician may prescribe pain medication and alpha blockers, which relax the ureter and ease the passing process. They may also recommend more water intake. If left undiagnosed and untreated, kidney stones will become more severe and require surgical removal.
The good news is that kidney stones are preventable. Drinking plenty of water daily is an excellent start for improving your kidney and urinary tract health. Reducing the amount of salt and animal-based proteins in your diet can also help minimize your risk. Based on your history of kidney stones, your doctor may also recommend a medication to mitigate the compounds that cause stones to form in the kidneys.
If you are experiencing symptoms of kidney stones, contact your physician right away for testing. Even with preventative measures, you may still be at risk for developing kidney stones. Ask your doctor if they recommend that you be tested and be sure to have yourself checked for early signs of kidney stones on a regular basis.
To learn more about urology care, contact the CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group or call 859.313.2255 to schedule an appointment or receive assistance with a provider referral.
Dr. Andrew McGregor is with CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Rheumatology.