A kidney stone is a solid piece of material that forms in the kidney. It is made from substances that normally
dissolve in the urine. Each year, about one million people in the U.S. get kidney stones. They typically strike between
age 20 and 50 and are more common in men than women. If you get one stone, you are more likely to get more.
How stones form
While some people are more likely to get kidney stones because of their family history, in most cases they
are caused by having too many salts in your urine. When the salts build up to a certain point, they no longer
dissolve. They form crystals instead. Normally, the urine contains chemicals and enzymes that keep crystals
from forming, or from sticking to the inner surface of the kidney.
Making a diagnosis
Small stones are usually passed unnoticed. Large stones often remain undetected until they become lodged
in the ureter and you have severe and sudden pain in the back or lower abdomen. There may also be blood
in the urine, nausea, and vomiting. If the stone is too large to pass, the muscles of the ureter tighten trying to
squeeze the stone into the bladder. Fever or chills usually mean there is an infection.
Removing the stone
In most cases, treatment means letting the stone pass naturally. Your health care provider may give you
medicine for pain relief. Then he or she will add fluids until the ureter builds up enough pressure to push the
stone out. For stones that don't pass on their own, other treatments are used to break the stone into small
pieces that can pass from your body in the urine.
Preventing stones from forming
The best treatment for kidney stones is to not get them in the first place. The most important part of prevention
is getting plenty of fluids. This dilutes your urine and increases urination which helps remove extra chemicals
from the body. You should also limit how much salt (sodium) you get each day. If you’ve had a stone in the
past, it’s best to speak with your health care provider to develop a treatment plan based on your type of stone.
Providers at Lakeland Urology diagnose and treat a variety of urologic conditions including kidney
stones. For more information, or to find a physician, visit lakelandurology.com or call 269.684.5447 in
Niles or 269.983.3455 in St. Joseph.