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Kidney Stone Survival Guide

Kidney stones have a reputation for causing a tremendous amount of pain. While they can be excruciating, the good news is pain can be controlled and permanent damage can be avoided if treated promptly. 

You can also take steps to avoid experiencing a kidney stone problem. Start by understanding the basics about why people get kidney stones and how to avoid them. 

What are kidney stones? 

Kidney stones are solid, pebble-like pieces of material that form in the kidneys when you have a high level of certain naturally-occuring minerals in your urine. These include calcium, oxalate and uric acid. 

Why do some people get kidney stones and others don’t?

There are many causes of kidney stones and these can vary individually. However, they are most commonly due to diet, medications or genetic factors.  Eating a diet high in protein, sugar and especially salt may increase your risk. Kidney stones can also be  idiopathic, which means of unknown cause.

How do I know if I have a kidney stone?

You may feel a sharp pain in your back, side, lower abdomen or groin. You may also have blood in your urine. Some people have no symptoms at all. 

Does the size of the stone equal the amount of pain it causes?

Yes, the size affects how much pain you feel. The location of the stone can also contribute to the amount, location and type of pain you may experience.

What are the treatment options? 

The key to treating any kidney stone is ensuring appropriate pain control. After adequate pain control is achieved, we next consider the size of the stone, possible causes/structure/type of stone and the medications needed to dilate ureter. Surgical interventions are reserved for stones of a certain structure and size.

What can people do to avoid kidney stones?

Hydration is key to avoiding kidney stones, so be sure to drink plenty of water. If you have a family history of kidney stones, your provider may recommend you avoid certain foods and beverages.  

If you have concerns, talk to your provider. We can make specific recommendations based on your health history and personal habits. Something you can do today is make drinking plenty of water part of your daily routine. 

Pradeepa Vimalachandran, MD
Pradeepa Vimalachandran, MD

Pradeepa Vimalachandran, MD is a Family Medicine provider with CHI Health.

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