We have all heard about the pain of passing a kidney stone — and those who’ve experienced it never want to go through it again. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help prevent this common disorder of the urinary tract.
To prevent kidney stones:
- Drink plenty of water. Remember, dehydration is one of the primary causes of kidney stones. On warmer days, when it’s easier to get dehydrated, up your fluid intake. Active people should drink at least 16- 20 ounces of fluid one to two hours before an outdoor activity. Overall, drink 60 – 64 ounces each day. Signs of dehydration include fatigue, loss of appetite, flushed skin, heat intolerance, light-headedness, dark-colored urine and dry cough.
- Limit sodium. This will cut down on the amount of calcium in your urine, which in turn reduces the tendency for calcium stones to form. Perhaps, you stop adding additional salt to your food. Another way to limit sodium is to avoid processed meats, salty convenience foods (regular, boxed or canned soups, noodle or rice mixes) and salty snacks.
- Eat more citrus. You want to consume foods rich in citrates, including oranges, melons, lemons and limes.
Kidney stones are also more common in those with a family history, or those who have already had one.
Urologist Manoj Monga, MD, FACS, treats patients with kidney stones, and he stresses the importance of proper hydration and a healthy diet. “Limit foods that are high in protein, including meat, eggs and fish, as well as prepared and fast foods, which are often high in salt,” he says.
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How can you tell if you’re developing a kidney stone?
Unfortunately, there are few signs that a kidney stone is forming. Usually, you don’t know until the kidney stone starts to move. When this happens, a person typically experiences pain in their upper back that can move down to their lower abdomen.
The good news is that when kidney stones are present, you have a variety of treatment options. A small stone can be present for years without any symptoms. And when discomfort begins to happen, there are medications that your doctor can prescribe to allow the stone to pass naturally.
How are kidney stones treated?
For these medications to work, there must be an early diagnosis, Dr. Monga says. For larger stones, he performs a variety of safe surgical procedures including:
- Shock wave lithotripsy — an outpatient procedure that uses sound waves to disintegrate kidney stones into smaller pieces that then pass on their own.
- Ureteroscopy — an outpatient procedure in which a scope is inserted through the ureter (opening through which urine passes) and a laser is used to break up the stone(s); fragments are removed in a tiny basket, though some may pass through urine.
- Percutaneous nephrolithotomy — an inpatient procedure that involves making a small (about one inch) incision in the back through which larger or less accessible stones are removed; patients are typically discharged within two days.
If you have symptoms of a kidney stone, talk to your doctor. There are many ways to find relief.