Kidney stones: What you need to know

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by Dr. Art Mollen, Special to azfamily.com

GMAZ interview by Scott Pasmore

Posted on May 29, 2013 at 10:24 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 8:12 AM

PHOENIX -- Kidney stones often cause no pain while they are in the kidneys, but they can cause sudden, severe pain as they travel from the kidneys to the bladder.

Severe pain in your side, belly, groin or back may be the first symptom of a kidney stone. You may also feel sick to your stomach. You may also develop blood in your urine.

Kidney stones are made of salts and minerals in the urine that stick together to form small “pebbles.”

When a stone travels through a ureter, it may cause no pain, or great pain.

Kidney stones form when a change occurs in the normal balance of water, salts, minerals, and other things found in urine.

The most common cause of kidney stones is not drinking enough water. You should drink enough water (about eight to 10 glasses a day) so that your urine is light yellow or clear. Some people are more likely to get kidney stones because they may be an inherited disease.

Your doctor may do imaging tests such as a CT scan or an ultrasound to look at your kidneys and urinary tract.

To find out the cause of your kidney stones, your doctor may order a blood test and ask you to collect your urine for 24 hours.

How are kidney stones treated?

Most kidney stones are treated at-home with pain medicine. Also, it's essential to drink enough water so you don’t get dehydrated.

If a stone is too large to pass on its own or if it gets stuck in the urinary tract, you may need more aggressive treatment.

The most common treatment is extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, which uses shock waves to break up a kidney stone into small pieces. The bits can pass out of your body in your urine. Your doctor may need to remove the stone or place a small flexible plastic tube (called a stent) into the ureter to keep it open while stones pass.

After you have had kidney stones, you are more likely to have them again. You can help prevent them by drinking plenty of water. However drinking large amounts of sugary sodas and fruit drinks increases your risk for kidney stones.

However coffee, tea, and orange juice, are associated with a lower risk of kidney stone formation.

Sugary drinks alone do not cause kidney stones.

Water remains the best hydrant and for kidney stone prevention, according to a study in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like Ibuprofen may relieve your pain while the stone passes.

Alpha-blockers like Flomax have been shown to help kidney stones pass more quickly.

Calcium stones are the most common kind of kidney stone.

If you develop uric acid stones, Allopurinol may help.

A small number of stones are made of a chemical called cystine and struvite stones form because of frequent kidney infections.

To prevent kidney stones, make sure you are adequately hydrated, especially during the summer months.


Dr.+Art+MollenDr. Art Mollen's practice is located at 16100 N. 71st St. in Scottsdale. For more information, call 480-656-0016 or log on to www.drartmollen.com.

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