Kidney Stone Causes

While COVID-19 is obviously top of mind for most Americans right now, we want to remind you that taking care of other health problems is just as important as ever. So what is a urologist, and how can one help you? 

Urologists treat the urinary system including the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra, as well as the reproductive system. Common conditions treated by urologists include kidney stones, enlarged prostates, pelvic prolapse, and incontinence for women. Since we’re about to enter the hot summer months in the South, kidney stones are a very common issue urologists will treat. 

Kidney stones form when you consume too much stone-forming material, and too little water to dilute the stone-forming molecules. The most common kidney stone is made of calcium oxalate. Oxalate comes from your food. 

Certain foods are high in oxalate content. These include foods with caffeine (coffee, tea, cola); chocolate; nuts (peanuts, almonds, cashews;  berries; spinach and kale; rhubarb;  black pepper. Preventing kidney stones relies on you drinking lots of water, and citrus juices (lemonade, limeade, orange juice, grapefruit juice). 

You can get an idea of how concentrated your urine is just by looking at its color. A diluted urine should be almost clear (good). A concentrated urine is very dark yellow (bad).

Stones quietly form in your kidney, and slowly grow in size. They don’t cause pain while they sit in your kidney. When a stone eventually tries to leave the kidney, it gets caught in the narrow channel of the ureter. If the stone blocks the ureter, the urine backs up into the kidney. It is this buildup of pressure behind the stone that causes the excruciating pain of kidney stones, called renal colic. Nausea and vomiting are common. Having the pain descend into the testicles in a man, or into the vagina in a woman is also a common symptom of kidney stone pain.

When are kidney
stones an emergency?

1. Unbearable pain. 

2. Fever, sweats, chills and shakes develop. These are signs of an infection.

3. If the stone(s) cause kidney failure.

The pain from kidney stones is usually very severe, but not constant. If the pain is unrelenting, and your pain medications can’t control it, then you should go to the emergency room for treatment.

Without treatment, stones can become infected. Fever (temperature greater than 101 F, or 38.5 Celsius), chills, sweats, and shakes are signs that the urine trapped behind the stone has become infected. This infection spreads through the kidney, and into the bloodstream. This can lead to a potentially fatal sepsis. For this reason, if you experience this during an episode of kidney stone pain, you need immediate attention.

Getting Rid of Kidney Stones

Small stones can usually pass out on their own. This is still a painful process, however, so it is best to work with your doctor to determine treatment. If the stone refuses to pass, or the pain is too severe, then we can perform a procedure to remove the stone. As we enter the summer months, we encourage you to drink lots of water to stay hydrated, and to practice healthy eating habits to avoid kidney stones. ν