Kidney stones are crystallizations that form from chemicals in your urine. They most commonly strike people aged 30-60. Up to 1 in 10 people will have a kidney stone at some point in their lives.
You may have heard of a family member, neighbor, or coworker rushing to the emergency room with pain from kidney stones. Of course, severe back pain is a sign of a kidney stone, but it’s not the only indication that you need help. You can head off a serious kidney stone attack when caught before they travel through the urinary tract.
Here are some indications that you have kidney stones and should seek a consultation with our urologist, W. Cooper Buschemeyer III, MD, at Buschemeyer Urology.
Why kidney stones cause pain
Kidney stones range in size. Some are like a grain of sand, while others grow to be the size of a pebble. Especially problematic kidney stones can be as large as a golf ball. Larger stones cause the most symptoms.
Small kidney stones often pass with minimal pain, but larger ones that travel through your urinary tract can cause blockages. When urine can’t pass through the ureter, you get a backup of urine that can’t flow out of your body. Sometimes the backup happens in the bladder, the urethra, or the kidney.
The pain starts suddenly — usually in your lower back — and builds rapidly to extreme levels. You may not know what’s happening and instinctively seek emergency care. Some patients mistake the pain for appendicitis.
Symptoms of kidney stones
Pain is not the only symptom of kidney stones. You may notice the following before the stones start to pass:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blood in your urine
- Difficult passing urine
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
- Burning while urinating
Vague stomach pain that lingers and just won’t go away is another possible sign of kidney stones.
If you pass a kidney stone and can save a piece of it after it’s passed, bring it into our office. Dr. Bushmeyer examines it to determine the type of stone you have so he can determine your future risk of developing more stones and help you prevent them.
Treatment for kidney stones
Allowing a kidney stone to pass usually doesn’t cause long-term damage and is the best way to help them clear. Dr. Buschemeyer recommends you drink lots of water and, for tiny kidney stones, manage pain with over-the-counter medications.
He may also prescribe a medication to make your urine less acidic, which means your kidney stones won’t grow.
Kidney stones that can’t pass because they’re too large or ones that block the flow of urine may require surgery. Surgery is a common course of action if a kidney stone has led to an infection.
An alternative to surgery is a procedure known as shock-wave lithotripsy. Dr. Bushemeyer uses high-energy sound waves to break up large kidney stones into small fragments that easily pass through your urine.
If you have pain or other symptoms that suggest a kidney stone, contact Buschemeyer Urology at the Conroe, Willis, or The Woodlands, Texas, offices. Call or use this website to schedule an appointment.