Kidney stones are very common, with about one in ten individuals developing at least one throughout their lifetime.
Kidney stones form when an individual’s urine contains too much of a certain substance or mineral, most commonly calcium. These substances can create small crystals that become stones, which take weeks or months to form. Some kidney stones form and do not change in size, while others may continue to increase in size, causing a more serious health situation which could lead to permanent kidney damage or destruction.
Kidney stones usually do not cause symptoms unless the body begins passing them through the urinary tract, which commonly causes severe flank pain, nausea and blood in the urine.
The biggest risk factor for kidney stones is not drinking enough fluids, along with high-sodium and/or unhealthy diets, and drinking large amounts of carbonated, phosphate-containing beverages.
Therefore, to help prevent kidney stones, individuals should drink at least two liters of water daily, reduce sodium and carbonated beverage intake and maintain well-balanced diets.
There are several options in treating kidney stones:
- Patient passes the kidney stone on their own, generally with the assistance of medications to aid the process and reduce pain. This process can sometimes take up to forty days.
- Shock-wave lithotripsy is a non-invasive procedure that uses sound or shock waves to break up stones slightly smaller than a half an inch that are located near the kidney or ureter. The stones then leave the body through the urinary tract.
- Ureteroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that incorporates the aid of a tiny camera and a laser to break up stones in the lower urinary tract.
- Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL) is a minimally invasive procedure in which a special telescope is used to examine the inside of the kidney, and the stones are broken up by high speed vibration or a laser. This procedure is usually reserved for patients with multiple stones or especially large stones.
Treatment for kidney stones must be individualized based on the patient’s condition as well as size, amount and composition of the kidney stones. Cone Health has an exceptional network of urologists and other related healthcare providers dedicated to providing individualized care for individuals diagnosed with kidney stones throughout the community.
Dr. Daniel Woodruff is a urologist at Alliance Urology, and a member of the Cone Health medical staff. Dr. Woodruff is a 2007 graduate of University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He completed an internship in general surgery in 2008, and his residency in urology in 2012 at University of Kansas Medical Center.