Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about Kidney Stones
How can I prevent stones from forming?
You can reduce your risk of kidney stones with lifestyle modifications, mostly with respect to diet. These include watching your salt (sodium) and animal protein intake and drinking sufficient water. Although calcium consumed in foods is fine, supplementation may contribute to the formation of stones. Your doctor can provide specifics about this.
If you have a history of forming calcium oxalate stones, your doctor will likely advise avoiding foods rich in oxalate. These include rhubarb, beets, okra, spinach, swiss chard, sweet potatoes, tea, chocolate, and soy products.
Can you treat stones with medicine?
Medication may be helpful depending upon the type of stone you have formed. To help prevent calcium stones from forming, your doctor may prescribe a thiazide diuretic or a phosphate-containing preparation. For uric acid stones, your doctor may prescribe medicine to keep your urine alkaline. To prevent struvite stones, your doctor may recommend low-dose antibiotics.
Are kidney stones familial?
For the most part, no. Cystine stones comprise a small number of stone cases, and are due to a heredity disorder which causes people to excrete excessive amount of certain amino acids.
Can you have kidney stones and not know it?
If the stone is still in your kidney, you may not feel it. Or, if it is small enough and moves through your urinary tract and passes out with urine, you may be unaware of it as well. However, once it has traveled to the ureter (the tube leading from your kidney to the bladder), it will generally cause symptoms which may include: pain in your side, belly, groin or back; pain while urinating; blood in your urine; vomiting; nausea and fever.
What procedures are there for the treatment of stones?
There are numerous ways stones are treated. Lithrotripsy (also known as extracorporeal shock wave lithrotripsy, or ESWL) is a process of stone crushing in which a high-energy shock wave generated by a high-voltage energy source crushes the kidney stone into particles which are passed in the urine. Minimally invasive surgery techniques enable surgeons to use instruments from the back into the kidney (percutaneous procedure), or through the urethra and bladder to the ureter and kidney (ureteroscopic procedure), to fragment the stone or remove it entirely. Minimally invasive procedures incorporate laser lithotripsy and are used for stone fragmentation.
What's the worst that can happen if I don't treat a stone that isn't bothering me?
Untreated kidney stones can result in an infection of the kidney and urine. This infection may spread into the blood stream and could ultimately lead to kidney failure and death.