Dr. Mark Allen, MD, a urologist with North Texas Urology Associates (972.612.8037 ; http://northtexasurologist.com/), treats a wide variety of patients at his Plano, TX urology office but says that kidney stones, in particular, are the most common and most painful of all urology related disorders. Approximately 3 million adults visit health care providers each year complaining of kidney stones. Many are sent to the emergency room because the pain can be excruciating.
Kidney stones are hard masses that form in the urine and resemble small stones or pebbles. These stones reside in the urinary tract and will eventually either be carried through the urine stream (also referred to as “passing kidney stones”), or they continue to build and will require medical intervention. Researchers indicate that kidney stones have increased in adults over the past several decades. Caucasians are more likely to get kidney stones than African Americans. Once a person gets a kidney stone, they are likely to get them again.
Although doctors do not know what causes a stone to form, researchers have found that when a change occurs in the normal balance of water, salts, and minerals found in urine, kidney stones can form. The most common cause of kidney stones is not drinking enough water. Genetics also plays a part—people who have family members who have had kidney stones are more susceptible to get them. Some individuals are more likely to get kidney stones because of a kidney disorder or a medical condition. Other causes of kidney stones include diet (for example too much vitamin C or those who are on the Atkins diet), inflammatory bowel disease, urinary tract infections, or calcium supplements if taken without food or if used excessively. In addition, foods and drinks containing oxalate can contribute to kidney stones. Foods such as spinach, beets, sweet potatoes, okra, peanuts and chocolate have high levels of oxalate. Individuals with a history of kidney stones are often warned to avoid certain foods with oxalate.
Kidney Stone Symptoms
Kidney stone symptoms are not always obvious. Most often, they go unnoticed. However, the first kidney stone symptoms for most people, unfortunately, include severe pain in the abdominal region; Nausea, vomiting and fever may also occur. Most kidney stones will eventually pass. For patients, passing kidney stones can be a frustrating waiting game and a painful one as they wait for the kidney stones to pass through the urinary system.
Kidney Stone Treatment
Dr. Mark Allen, MD, usually recommends that patients wait it out and allow the stones to pass. If the stones are too large, he proceeds with more aggressive measures. “Most of my patients do not have trouble eventually passing kidney stones within a few days. Sometimes, kidney stones can be too large to pass, so we will move to another form of kidney stones treatment—essentially demolishing the stones using shock waves or lasers. Both of these are common, in-office procedures that are very effective. Most of my patients are able to resume their normal activities very quickly. On very rare occasions surgery is required, but with the new laser technology on the market, it isn’t always heeded.”
Dr. Allen states that surgery may be needed for kidney stones treatment to remove kidney stones if:
- The stone does not pass after a specific period of tie
- The patient is in constant and continuous pain
- The stone is too large to pass
- The stone blocks the flow of urine or is in an obscure place within the urinary tract
- Is a consistent problem for the patient—causing other medical issues such as infection.
- The stone causes excessive bleeding
Dr. Allen recommends drinking a lot of water—especially for those who are prone to getting kidney stones. In addition, he recommends that patients avoid calcium pills (supplements) and food with added vitamin D.
For each patient that comes into his office with kidney stones, he devices a plan for them, as most urologists do. “For patients who have consistent stones or a family history, we work to track the stones so we can develop a preventative plan. Certain blood and urine tests are able to assist with this. Some patients will require medication as part of this prevention plan; others will need a complete lifestyle change associated with diet. Once kidney stones are diagnosed and addressed, proactive prevention can help decrease the onset of the stones dramatically,” says Dr. Allen.
If you are experiencing kidney stones, please consult with your urologist and that you can learn about the kidney stones treatment options that are available for you.