Kidney Stones: Helping the Stone to Pass | Kidney Awareness Month


Kidney Stones: Summary and Overview

Kidney stones or “renal lithiasis” are tiny and solid deposits that are formed within the kidneys and made from dietary minerals. Pain from a kidney stone often shifts as the stone moves through the urinary tract. It usually begins on either the side or the back and underneath the ribs before it moves toward the lower part of the abdomen and the groin area. Once the stone has moved through the ureter into the bladder, the kidney stone has passed, and the pain usually ends. 

Kidney stones rarely cause permanent damage. They usually pass on their own with over time. However, before they pass they can be quite painful. It’s recommended to drink plenty of fluids to help them move through the ureter. You may also consider over-the-counter pain medications to help ease the pain.



Kidney Stones: Causes

There is no single cause of kidney stones. There are a number of factors that may work together to increase the risk of their development including:

  • Family history: Having a family history of kidney stones will make you more likely to develop them.
  • Certain diets. Eating a diet that’s high-protein, high-sodium and high-sugar may increases your risk of kidney stones.
  • Being obese. High body mass index (BMI), increased waist size and weight gain have been linked to an increased risk of kidney stones.
  • Certain diseases: Gastric bypass surgery, inflammatory bowel disease or chronic diarrhea can cause changes in your digestive system and make you more likely to develop mineral deposits in your kidneys. 
  • Certain medications: Indinavir is a antiretroviral therapy used by patients who have HIV; one of the side effects are mineral deposits in the kidney called Indinavir stones. Some prescription medications such as Dilantin and certain antibiotics such as Ceftriaxone and Ciprofloxacin are also associated with kidney stone formation – though in reality only 1% of kidney stone sufferers have gone on Ciprofloxacin.

Kidney Stones: Symptoms

In general, persons do not feel symptoms until the kidney stone has moved out of the kidney and into the ureter. At that point, the following signs and symptoms may occur:

  • Severe pain in the side and back, below the ribs. It may spread to the groin as the stone moves down the ureter. The pain of kidney stones tends to be intense and come in waves, although there may be an underlying ache. These are called colic. Kidney pain can be a symptom of several other ailments as well, however, so it is important to get a professional diagnosis as soon as possible.
  • Pain on urination.
  • Pink, red, brown or cloudy urine. 
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Persistent urge to urinate and or burning sensation on urination.

If you have a fever or chills, an infection may be present. In this case, a person should contact a doctor immediately.

Kidney Stones: Diagnostic tests

At first your doctor will ask for your medical history, symptoms, and do a complete physical examination. A KUB is a plain film of the abdomen with the letters standing for Kidneys-Ureters-Bladder. About 85 % of stones can be seen with a KUB. It is a form of X-ray.  The “Intravenous Pyelogram” or IVP is a sequence of about 4-6 abdominal X-rays that are taken following the injection of intravenous dye into the kidneys. It is highly accurate in determining the location and size of the kidney stone. Alternatively your doctor may prescribe computerized tomography (CT) scan or ultrasound.

Kidney Stones: Treatment Options

Kidney stones rarely cause permanent damage. They usually pass on their own with time. However, before they pass they can be quite painful. It’s recommended to drink plenty of fluids to help them move through the ureter. You may also consider over-the-counter pain medications to help ease the pain.

For the larger stones that aren’t passing by themselves, there are a number of treatment options.

  • Sound waves to break up the stones: extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy is a procedure that is used to break up kidney stones. The vibrations caused by the sound waves split them apart.
  • Surgery: for larger stones, some people have surgery. A small incision is made into the patient’s back, and the stones are removed.
  • Breaking up the stone with a scope: your doctor may feed an ureteroscope through your ureter to your kidney and then use special tools to cut the stone into pieces.

There are several natural remedies for kidney stones. Massage therapy is one treatment for people with kidney stones, preferably those who are in the asymptomatic state. Pressure points for the kidney in Chinese medicine can be found under the knee joint. Gently massaging these areas are also a great help in relieving kidney pain from stones. A daily bowl of bran flakes daily provides the body with fiber that helps remove calcium as well as oxalate from the urine to prevent the formation of kidney stones. Whole wheat bread has daily fiber and magnesium, a mineral that breaks down the stones. Vitamin B6 is known for fighting stones and preventing the buildup of excess oxalate in the body, which is a primary factor in stone formation.

Kidney Stones: Prevention

As there are many possible causes of kidney stones, prevention is difficult. However, staying well hydrated is important, and if you already have a kidney stone it’s a good idea to stay away from caffeinated drinks. Knowing your type of kidney stones can help in adopting a particular treatment for it, for instance, reducing your meat consumption is recommended for kidney stones. Calcium oxalate kidney stones can be avoided by limiting the consumption of foods rich in oxalate, such as spinach, beets, chocolate, and rhubarb.

Kidney Stones:  Conclusion

It’s hard to prevent kidney stones, although there are a number of risk factors, such as high-protein, high-sodium and high-sugar diets, obesity, family history, certain diseases and medications. Most kidney stones pass on their own, but larger ones may need treatment. Natural remedies include fish oils, magnesium, vitamin B6, and massage therapy.