All About Kidney Stones

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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.

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