What is a kidney stone?
A kidney stone is a hard mass that forms in the kidney out of substances in the urine. Kidney stones may be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a pearl. Some stones are even as big as golf balls. Most kidney stones pass out of the body with urine. But sometimes a stone will not pass by itself and needs a doctor’s care.
Who gets kidney stones?
You are more likely to get a kidney stone if
- you are Caucasian
- you are male
- you are 40 or older
- you have had a kidney stone before
How do I know if I have a kidney stone?
Kidney stones often do not cause any symptoms and pass through the body without being noticed. But sometimes stones can cause great pain.
You should call your doctor if you have
- extreme pain in your back or side that will not go away
- blood in your urine
- fever and chills
- urine that smells bad or looks cloudy
- a burning feeling when you urinate
What can my doctor do about a problem stone?
Your doctor may use a machine that sends shock waves to the stone and breaks it into smaller pieces. The small pieces will then pass through your urinary system with your urine.
Sometimes a stone is removed through “tunnel surgery.” The surgeon makes a small cut in the back and creates a narrow tunnel into the kidney. The surgeon then locates and removes the stone using a special instrument.
If the stone is in the ureter-the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder-the doctor may use a ureteroscope. This slender instrument is inserted into the urethra-the short tube that carries urine out of the bladder when you urinate-through the bladder, then into the ureter. The doctor will catch the stone with a small cage in the uteroscope and pull it out. Or the doctor may shatter the stone with a device inserted through the ureteroscope.
What can I do to prevent kidney stones?
Drink lots of water. Water helps to flush away the substances that form stones in the kidneys. If you have had a kidney stone before, you’re likely to have others. Talk with your doctor about other ways to avoid more stones.