Kidney Stones Symptoms And Treatments
Kidney stones are a fairly common condition that tend to affect people more during middle age (aged 30-60 years). Stones can form in one or both kidneys and quite often can just pass through the urinary system undetected and without causing any pain. Sometimes large stones can get blocked and cause considerable pain called renal colic. In this instance a treatment to break up the stone or surgery may be required.
Symptoms Of Kidney Stones
Small stones are unlikely to cause you much of a problem. Symptoms don’t usually occur until the kidney stone has got to a size where it becomes stuck in either the kidney, ureters or urethra. A stone blocking the ureter can also cause a kidney infection to develop, which can cause a different set of symptoms.
If you have a large stone you may experience:
- Persistent ache in your lower back or groin
- Intense pain that comes in waves in your back, abdomen or groin that can last for several minutes or several hours
- Feeling generally uncomfortable or restless
- The need to urinate more often
- Blood in your urine
Symptoms of a kidney infection include:
- A high temperature of 38C (100F) or higher
- Chills and shivering
- Flu-like symptoms
- Cloudy and/ or foul smelling urine
How Are Kidney Stones Diagnosed?
You may be asked to provide a urine sample to check for signs of kidney stones. If you suspect and have seen stones in your urine, it may be helpful to collect these for your GP so they can diagnose the type of stone causing the issue more easily. One method for collecting stone is to urinate through a piece of gauze so that the stones don’t pass through.
If you are experiencing significant pain then you may be referred to a urologist who can perform some more detailed exams to determine the extent of your kidney stone. These tests may include:
Various scans including CT (Computerised Tomography), X-rays and Ultrasound
Intravenous Urogram or Intravenous Pyelogram – a contrast is injected into your vein and then a series of x-rays will be taken. This contrast dye can highlight if their are any blockage in the kidney or urinary tract
Kidney Stones Treatments
For most people treatment will aim to reduce your discomfort via pain relief and anti-sickness medication should you need it. Most stones should pass out naturally but can cause pain for several days. If the stone is too big to be passed then a surgical solution may be looked into
Drinking Plenty Of Fluids
To aid the removal of the stone, it is important to drink plenty of clear fluids. Keeping well hydrated will also help to prevent stones from forming too. Drinking lots of water is particularly important if you have a stone that has formed from uric acid as this will help to break the stone down. In these instance you will be advised to try to drink around three litres of water a day and may also be given a medication to make your urine more alkaline, which will also help the stone break down.
You may be given painkilling injections to give you relief whilst waiting for the stone to pass. You may also be given some stronger painkillers on prescription to take home to keep on top of your pain. Make sure that you follow the guidelines and only take the doses as prescribed by your GP.
If you are suffering from bouts of sickness, your GP can also describe a drug that can help relieve sickness and nausea. These include medicines such as Cyclizine and Metoclopramide that are also known as antiemetics.
Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL)
This is the most common method used to treat kidney stones and involves using ultrasound shockwaves to break down the stones and make them easier to pass.
If the kidney stone is stuck in your ureter than you may be offered a ureteroscopy, which is an operation done under general anaesthetic and involves passing a small flexible tube through your urethra, into your bladder and then up into your ureter. The surgeon will then either try to remove the stone or use a laser to break the stone down so it can be passed out.
Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL)
This is an alternative removal method if ESWL cannot be carried out for some reason. This involves making an incision in the back and passing a nephroscope (a small, thin telescopic instrument) into the kidney where the stone will either be removed and lasered and broken down so that it can be passed out with your urine.
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