But what exactly are kidney stones? What do they feel like? In this article, we explore everything regarding kidney stones.
What Are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones are small, hard deposits of mineral and acid salts that form on the inner surfaces of your kidneys. The most common type of kidney stone contains calcium in combination with either oxalate or phosphate. Oftentimes, patients compare this condition to gallstones, but they are different. Other kidney stones include struvite stones, which are caused by infections such as UTIs, and uric acid stones, which can form in people with gout or a diet high in animal protein.
What Do Kidney Stones Feel Like?
Most people who have kidney stones report feeling a sharp, cramping pain in their lower back or side. The pain may come and go, but it is usually severe enough to interrupt your daily activities.
Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, fever, blood in your urine, and difficulty urinating. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor right away.
Causes, Prevalence, and Risk Factors
Kidney stones are most commonly caused by not drinking enough water, which can lead to dehydration and cause the minerals in your urine to become concentrated and form crystals. Other risk factors include having a family history of kidney stones (cystine stones), certain medical conditions, and taking certain medications. Kidney stones are more common in men than women, and most people who develop them are between the ages of 20 and 49.
If you think you might have kidney stones, the first step is to contact your gastroenterologist. They will likely order a CT scan or an ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis. Once kidney stones are diagnosed, there are a few different treatment options.
The first is to drink a lot of water and wait for the stone to pass on its own, which can take a few days to a few weeks. If the stone is small, it will easily pass through the urinary tract. However, if it’s large, it may become stuck and cause a blockage. This can lead to infection, kidney damage, or even kidney failure, requiring surgical removal.
Tips to Keep Your Kidneys Healthy
- Drink plenty of fluids every day, especially water. This will help flush out your system and prevent stones from forming.
- Eat a healthy diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables. This will help reduce the amount of oxalate in your body, which can lead to kidney stones.
- Avoid foods that are high in salt, sugar, or animal protein. These can all increase the risk of developing kidney stones.
- Get regular exercise. Exercise helps keep your urine diluted and moves stone-forming minerals out of the kidneys more quickly.
If you think you might have kidney stones, the best thing to do is contact your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Once diagnosed, your doctor will likely prescribe medications to help break up the stone or prevent new ones from forming.
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