One of the most common problems affecting the urinary tract are kidney stones. As anyone who has experienced it knows, kidney stones can create intense pain.
A kidney stone is a concentration of hard materials, usually mineral salts, that develop within the urinary tract, the body’s drainage system for excess waste. The stones can occur anywhere along the urinary tract – from your kidneys (which filters blood and produces urine) to your urethra (the duct that expels urine from the body).
According to the National Kidney Foundation, one in 10 people will get kidney stones in their lifetime. Kidney stones affect nearly twice as many men than women and each year, more than half a million people go to the emergency room complaining of pain from kidney stones.
The stones form when the fluid in your urine is unable to dilute or break up the amount of crystal-forming substances present, such as calcium and uric acid. Tiny kidney stones may travel down the urinary tract and out of the body without causing much pain. But stones that don’t move on can obstruct urine flow and cause and a great deal of pain in the abdomen and groin areas. It may also cause inflammation around the kidney.
Risk Factors and Diagnosis
Risk factors for kidney stones include dehydration, a family history of kidney stones, and the use of many different medications such as diuretics, which increase how often a person passes urine.
Paying attention to the color of your urine is a good indication of your level of hydration and can be used to gauge whether you are consuming enough fluids. A pale yellow or clear color means you are adequately hydrated; darker-colored urine usually indicates you are not drinking enough fluids.
Difficulty urinating, or severe abdominal pain may indicate the presence of kidney stones.
Your physician may conduct a variety of diagnostic tests such as a physical examination, urine analysis, ultrasound, X-rays or CT scan, and blood tests. These tests can help rule out other conditions, such as a urinary tract infection, and help determine your best treatment options.
Treatment Options for Kidney Stones
Waiting for kidney stones to pass usually takes patience and time. Sometimes the stones will pass through your urinary tract on its own, and sometimes a urologist may prescribe medication to relax the muscles of the ureter and help break down the kidney stones, so it can pass out of the body during urination.
If the kidney stones are too large to pass through the body on its own, a urologist may recommend certain in-office procedures.
There are several procedures that can precisely break up, remove, or help people pass kidney stones.
In a uretoscopy, a doctor inserts a thin scope into the urinary tract via the urethra to remove the kidney stones.
In a lithotripsy, a doctor uses ultrasound or laser technology to break up the stones, allowing it to more easily pass during urination.
Not only can the presence of kidney stones be excruciatingly painful, but it can disrupt daily life, lead to hospitalization and even kidney damage if left untreated.
Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg can expertly evaluate and treat kidney stones and help prevent them from reoccurring. To find out more, call Urology Specialists of Milford at (508) 473-6333 to request an appointment with Dr. Steinberg.