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Kidney Stones: Should you be worried or not?

Kidney stones can either be a serious medical problem or a slight inconvenience. Depending on the gravity of the case and how much pain it causes, kidney stones aren’t necessarily a life-or-death situation. However, they do still indicate a need for a lifestyle change and a look at other possible complications.

Fast Facts About Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are crystallized mineral from substances found in the urine. Though generally not a cause for alarm, as kidney stones are quite common, they can cause severe pain and discomfort. 

There are a few types of kidney stones, classified based on from which mineral they formed.

  1. Calcium stones
    These are stones made from high concentrations of calcium, oxalate, phosphate, or cystine in your urine and not enough liquid to process the waste. These can develop by consuming oxalate-rich food such as nuts, soy, rhubarb, beets, and miso.
  2. Uric acid stones
    Uric acid stones form when excessive uric acid is present in your body or your urine is too acidic. High levels of uric acid result from a high-purine diet. Purine-rich food consists of animal proteins (beef, chicken, lamb), organ meat, beer, and common alcohol.
  3. Struvite stones
    Struvite is a substance produced when your urine is high in alkaline. This can occur when there is a urinary track infection. This particular kind of stone is more common with women as females are more susceptible to UTIs than males.
  4. Cystine stones
    Cystine stones are much rarer cases as they are caused by a hereditary condition called “cystinuria.” Cystinuria results in higher levels of cystine in the urine which crystallize into painful, recurring stones. Unfortunately, this condition can only be maintained not cured.

How are stones treated?

The good news is that most kidney stones are small enough that they can easily pass through the urethra without any pain, just stable water intake and light medication. Some are too insignificant of size to be felt that they pass without ever being detected.

However, for larger stones that cause severe, debilitating pain, professional medical attention is required. 

  • Lithotripsy
    When kidney stones are large enough that passing them through the urethra is impossible, a noninvasive (no surgery required) process called Lithotripsy is the most common treatment. Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) is a popular method of using a lithotripter machine to generate shock waves that travel into your body to break down the stones for easier passing.
  • Cystoscopy or Ureteroscopy
    A cystoscope and a ureteroscope are small optical instruments withs lens and flexible tubes that are inserted into the urethra to get a clear view of your ureters, kidneys, and bladders and extract the stones manually.
  • Nephrolithotomy
    Nephrolithotomy is an invasive surgery that requires a surgeon to create a small incision on your back to remove the large stones. This procedure is usually done if all other solutions are not viable.
  • Parathyroid gland surgery
    If your doctor determines that the cause for your kidney stones are enlarged parathyroid glands, removal of one or more glands may be deemed necessary for long-term treatment.


Prevention is Key

Developing kidney stones can easily be prevented through lifestyle adjustments.

  1. Keep yourself hydrated
    Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water every day to flush out toxins from your body. If you are physically active or live in a dry place, you might need to hydrate more. Avoid the temptation of regularly consuming sugary energy drinks and soda; water is the best for the body.
  2. Eat a clean diet
    Introduce more fruits, vegetables, and grains into your diet. Lessen your intake of oxalate-rich food, sugar, sodium, and alcohol.

  3. Check your medical history
    Be aware of family illnesses or conditions that may have been passed down to you. You might be more at risk for some diseases than others.