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About Kidney Stones

Frequently Asked Questions

What are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones are small, solid pieces of material that form inside your kidneys when salts and other mineral substances in your urine bond together. Nephrolithiasis is the term for developing a kidney stone. Stones are common and often vary in shape and size, with some growing to be quite large. A small stone may pass out of the kidney and through the urinary tract without causing any discomfort, while a larger stone may remain in the kidney or travel down the urinary tract and become stuck in the ureter (a tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder).

When they’re small, stones may pass on their own without causing pain. Large stones may block urine flow, which can cause a number of painful symptoms that can be severe. However, the size of the stone doesn’t always correspond to the severity of the pain. The pain a kidney stone causes can vary as the stone moves around in your kidney and down the ureter.

What Causes Kidney Stones to Form?  

While kidney stones are very common, there are certain risk factors that cause people to be more prone to developing stones than others. One-half of all patients who have one kidney stone episode will have another kidney stone sometime in their lifetime.

Are There Risk Factors for Kidney Stones?

  • A family history of stone disease, especially in first-degree relatives
  • Dehydration – lack of fluids can cause salts and other minerals in the urine to stick together to cause kidney stones
  • Certain diets – diets high in protein, salt, oxalates (such as spinach, chocolate, nuts) and excess vitamin D can increase your risk of developing kidney stones
  • Certain medical conditions – gastric conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, and chronic diarrhea affect the way your body absorbs water and calcium, which increases levels of stone-forming substances in your urine
  • Metabolic diseases (such as hyperparathyroidism or gout)
  • Obesity has been linked to higher incidences of stone formation

What Causes Kidney Stone Pain?  

Not everyone who develops kidney stones will experience pain or discomfort. Some kidney stones do not necessarily cause pain and are often able to pass out of the body through the urine. Certain kidney stones, on the other hand, can cause extensive pain or discomfort as they move around in the kidneys and pass down into the ureter, which is a tube that connects the kidneys to the bladder. One of the reasons large kidney stones can cause so much pain is that they often get stuck in the ureter and block the flow of urine. As the kidney stones move around the kidneys or attempt to pass through the ureter, they can cause significant pain in the side or back. The pain can also radiate through the abdomen and down to the groin. Additionally, kidney stones can even make it painful to urinate. 

What are the Symptoms of Kidney Stones?  

Symptoms of Kidney Stones In Milford, MA

Kidney Stones don’t always cause symptoms. However, a kidney stone that blocks the flow of urine can cause terrible pain.  When kidney stones are small, they may pass on their own without pain. However, large stones may block urine flow, which can cause a number of painful symptoms that can be severe. This can happen when a kidney stone becomes stuck in the ureter, which is the tube that connects your bladder to your kidneys. However, the size of the stone doesn’t always correspond to the severity of the pain. Sometimes, a kidney stone can lodge in a certain area in your kidney and cause discomfort. The pain a kidney stone causes can vary as it moves around in your kidney and down the ureter.

When a kidney stone has passed into the urinary tract, signs or symptoms you may have a kidney stone may include:

  • Severe pain, usually located in the side or the back; pain may spread to the abdomen and the groin area as well
  • Urinary symptoms such as painful urination, urinary urge, and frequent need to urinate
  • Blood in the urine and/or foul-smelling urine
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fever if the stone has caused an infection

If painful symptoms persist, it’s important to contact your urologist for diagnosis and immediate treatment.

How Common are Kidney Stones?  

Kidney Stones are very common. More than 10% of adults will develop a kidney stone during their lifetime. Men are more likely to develop kidney stones than women. If you have had a kidney stone, you have an increased risk of developing a second stone during your lifetime.

Can Kidney Stones be Prevented?  

Routine blood tests and 24-hour urine collections may help to manage and prevent further kidney stones. We routinely utilize the convenient Litholink At-Home urine collection kit, which is delivered to your home and picked up after completion of the urine collection. Dr. Steinberg will review the results of the tests with you and provide detailed recommendations for any dietary changes, medications, or supplements.

The most important dietary changes for kidney stone patients typically include:

  1. Drinking at least 2.5 liters (quarts) of fluid per day- this does not have to be pure water. In fact, lemonade is the best drink around for preventing stones.
  2. Avoiding salt in your food. Unfortunately, most prepared foods have lots of salt so it’s important to check the ingredients on the labels.
  3. Adding citrus fruits and juices to your diet, including lemons/lemonade, oranges, pineapple and grapefruit. Citrate is the key ingredient in these foods which helps to prevent stone formation. Alternatively, if appropriate, Dr. Steinberg can recommend a citrate supplement for you which does not require a prescription and can be ordered online

Learn more about how LithoLink may help you manage and prevent further kidney stones here.

How are Kidney Stones Diagnosed?  

Diagnosis of kidney stones includes a medical history, physical exam, and imaging such as an ultrasound of your kidneys to look for kidney stones and to look for signs of blockage of your kidneys. In some cases. an x-ray of your abdomen (KUB) or a CT scan may be necessary to further diagnose the size, location and number of stones, in order to develop a treatment plan.

How are Kidney Stones Treated?  

While smaller Kidney Stones may pass on their own with increased fluid intake and medication, larger stones or stones that block the flow of urines must be treated promptly before extreme pain or infection develops. At Urology Specialists of Milford, we treat kidney stones with non-invasive methods: Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy (ESWL) and Ureteroscopy and laser Lithotripsy. Both methods involve breaking kidney stones down into small fragments that can readily pass out of the body through the urine. ESWL utilizes shock waves to break up the kidney stones, while ureteroscopy and laser lithotripsy utilizes video imaging in conjunction with a laser to do the same.

Harvard-trained and Board-certified urologist Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg has more than 30 years of experience treating and helping patients manage and prevent kidney stone disease. To request a consult with Dr. Steinberg, contact Urology Specialists of Milford at (508) 473-6333 to schedule an appointment in our Milford, MA office.

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Are you interested in learning more about Kidney Stones? Read more about Kidney Stones and Dr. Steinberg’s approach at our Kidney Stone Center.