Kidney stones, also known as renal calculi, are hard deposits that form in the kidneys and can cause significant pain and discomfort. The symptoms and treatments for kidney stones can vary depending on the size, location and number of stones present. Read on for an overview:
Symptoms of kidney stones
- Severe pain: The most common symptom is intense pain in the side or back, below the ribs. The pain can radiate to the lower abdomen and groin.
- Hematuria: Blood in the urine, often visible as pink, red or brown discoloration.
- Frequent urination: The urge to urinate more frequently than usual, accompanied by minimal urine production.
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Fever and chills (if you have an infection).
And, so what are the treatments?
Treatment depends on how bad your stones are and whether you have had them diagnosed, including:
- Drinking plenty of fluids: Increasing fluid intake, especially water, helps flush out small kidney stones. You should aim to drink at least two to three litres of water per day.
- Pain management: Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can help alleviate pain. Stronger prescription pain medications may be necessary for severe pain.
- Medical therapy: Dending on the type of kidney stone, medications can be prescribed to help dissolve or prevent the formation of stones in the first place. More commonly used for certain types of stones like uric acid stones.
- Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL): Sound waves are used in this non-invasive procedure, where kidney stones are broken into smaller pieces that can be passed more easily in the urine.
- Ureteroscopy: A thin tube inserted through the urethra and bladder to reach the stone in the ureter or kidney. The stone can then be removed or broken into smaller pieces using laser or ultrasound.
- Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL): Surgical procedure for larger stones or when other treatments are not feasible. A small cut is made in the back and a tube is inserted to remove or break up the stone or stones.
- Natural passage: Small stones (usually less than 5mm) may pass naturally through the urinary tract with increased fluid intake and pain management. This process can take from several days to a few weeks.
It is important to consult with a healthcare professional if you suspect you have kidney stones. They can evaluate your symptoms, order diagnostic tests such as imaging or urine analysis and recommend appropriate treatment based on the size and location of the stones.