Kidney stones are comprised of salts and minerals in the urine that bind together, forming small crystals that build up inside of the kidney. Kidney stones may be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. They are usually painless while in the kidney but can cause severe pain if small pieces of these crystals break off and travel through the narrow tubes (ureters) to the bladder. When the crystals do break off, the pain is often unmistakable and can be quite severe. While some stones do pass out of the body on their own, others can get trapped in one of the ureters, and may even require surgical intervention.
When the pain of a kidney stone strikes, Dr. Fenig will evaluate you and determine if surgical intervention is required to relieve your symptoms and remove the stone safely.
Symptoms of Kidney Stones
Symptoms of kidney stones may include:
- Sudden intense pain in your back or side near your kidney, which may radiate toward your abdomen, groin or genitals
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Blood in your urine
- Frequent and painful urination
- Fever, especially if accompanied by other symptoms (may be an emergency if a stone is blocking the ureter or infection is present in the urine)
- Caucasian males, ages 20 – 60 years
- A diet too high in salt, calcium or oxalates (such as spinach, chocolate, nuts), or a high protein diet
- Family history of kidney stones or a previous stone
- Metabolic diseases (such as hyperparathyroidism or gout)
- Inactive lifestyle or prolonged bed rest
- Frequent urinary tract infections or other bladder problems
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as Crohn's disease
- Certain rare hereditary disorders
If a kidney stone is suspected, Dr. Fenig will take a detailed medical history and perform a thorough physical exam. He may also order one of the following tests to determine if and where a stone exists:
- Plain X-ray ("KUB" of the kidneys, ureters and bladder)
- CT scan
Many kidney stones do not require treatment or will pass without surgery. However, if your kidney stone is large or will not pass on its own, Dr. Fenig can perform one of several procedures:
- Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) - shock waves pass through the body and break up the kidney stone into smaller, more easily passable fragments.
- Ureteroscopy with Lithotripsy - a special videoscope is passed into the urinary tract, where the stone can be grasped or broken into smaller pieces with a laser.
- Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy - a videoscope is placed directly into the kidney from the back to break up and remove large or complicated stones.
Reduce Your Risk of Kidney Stones
To help prevent kidney stones or a recurrence of kidney stones if you have already developed this condition, Dr. Fenig recommends that you:
- Drink 8-10 glasses of water per day
- Use fresh squeezed lemons or lemon juice in water (not store-bought lemonade)
- Reduce salt intake
- Decrease animal protein intake (chicken, beef, fish – in moderation)
- Avoid foods high in oxalate for some patients
- Take special medications
- Normal calcium intake (not megadoses)