Dear Dr. Garner,
Last week, I had the worst pain of my life. I went to the doctor, and it turned out to be kidney stones.
While I am free of stones now, should I expect a recurrence anytime soon? What can I do to prevent future stones?
Kidney Stones and
Moans in Midwood
Dear Kidney Stones,
You have endured what is known to be the most painful affliction of humans aside from pregnancy.
The kidney stone is actually a small rock that forms in the kidney. It can either stay in the kidney or move further down a tube (ureter), which leads from the kidney to the bladder. This tube carries urine from the kidney to the bladder for excretion.
The problem arises when a stone gets stuck somewhere in the tube causing severe pain and blockage of the kidney.
At Greatest Risk
While anyone can form kidney stones, some people are more likely than others to develop them. These include:
- Those overweight
- Those with kidney infections
- Those who have family members with kidney stones
- Previous kidney stone sufferers
- Those who eat a lot of meat and eggs
- Those who do not drink enough liquids
Your question is particularly appropriate now as kidney stones occur most frequently in the spring. Some believe that this may be due to the fact that we become dehydrated as the temperature rises and we go outdoors for physical activity. Getting enough fluids into your system is an important part in the prevention of stones.
- Severe pain in the side and back below the ribs
- Pain that spreads to the belly
- Pain that comes in waves
- Pain on urination
- Cloudy or foul smelling urine
- Fever and chills
- Urge to urinate
The stone forms from different crystals in the urine that can come together, usually when one is dehydrated or has a lot of crystals. There are many different types of stones, and the cause is better understood once the type of kidney stone is determined.
For example, stones made of calcium may be caused by drinking too much milk or dairy products or from taking too many supplements.
When you have a stone, there are some things you can do to alleviate the pain, such as:
- Drink water to try to flush the stone out. (This may take two to three quarts a day.)
- Try to remain active.
- Taking pain relievers may help.
There are certain medicines that can dissolve stones which may work as well.
Certain stones may be treated with ultrasound waves, known as lithotripsy, in which the stone is blasted by sound waves into little pieces and then flows out in the urine.
Lifestyle changes may also help. Try eating a diet low in salt and animal protein and limiting the use of calcium supplements.
To reduce recurrence, here are some simple tips:
- Drink plenty of water all day to flush the crystals out of the urine.
- Drink less beer. In addition to dehydrating you, it contains crystals which can form stones.
- Eat less meat. Meat is high in certain crystals which can form stones.
With the proper lifestyle changes, you can definitely reduce your chance of developing another kidney stone.
Thank you for your question. Good luck.
Dr. Garner is a Fidelis Care provider who is affiliated with New York Methodist Hospital, Park Slope. He also hosts “Ask the Doctor” on NET TV, Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Time Warner Channel 97, Cablevision Channel 30 and Verizon FiOS on Demand.