When recalling past misadventures in passing kidney stones, people will often say things like, “I’d prefer being drawn and quartered with a spoon” or “If I could have moved, it would have been off the balcony.” Like hurricanes and earthquakes and presidential campaigning, kidney stones cause us to question the existence of any benevolent force in the universe. The symptoms of kidney stones are in some cases minimal; you may not know you have a rock lodged in your kidney until you go in to the doctor because of bloody urine or something unrelated. Most often, however, kidney stones earn their reputation. There have been rumors that passing a stone is worse than having a baby, on a pain scale. I’ve had neither, but have heard tell that you may experience tremendous, pray-for-the-first-time pain in your side, back, or abdomen.
This pain generally radiates toward the groin and genitals, and it usually comes in waves that can last up to an hour. These waves can get worse as the stone moves towards the exit. It may take up to four unpleasant weeks for the stone to pass from the kidney, through the ureter, and out the urethra. Other symptoms include nausea and vomiting, painful urination, and/or urine that smells like decomposing bodies. None of these are good.
So what causes kidney stones…what are they? Well, kidney stones are basically minerals and/or acid salts that have crystallized in the kidney. What causes kidney stones is a more difficult question, as often many variables are involved. Put simply, kidney stones are formed when your urine is out of balance. Urine that is too alkaline or too acidic can produce kidney stones. They can be caused by inherited diseases, insufficient water intake, as well as lifestyle choices. Obesity, alcohol consumption, and lack of activity are all risk factors for kidney stones. And once you’ve had one, your chances of developing more rise dramatically – you’ll most likely need to make some lifestyle changes. Ok, now we know a little about this bane. Below you’ll find out how to prevent, remove, and get rid of kidney stones.
Types of Kidney Stones
Calcium Stones: The most common type of kidney stone, calcium stones make up nearly 80% of all cases. These kidney stones are usually a compound of calcium and oxalate, but they can contain other minerals. Dietary imbalances, metabolic disorders, certain medications, and hyperparathyroidism can all be causes of calcium kidney stones.
Struvite Stones: Struvite kidney stones account for approximately 10% of all kidney stone cases. These stones are caused by urinary tract infections, to which women are far more susceptible. This type of kidney stone can be dangerous because of their tendency to grow too large to pass.
Uric Acid Stones: Uric acid kidney stones are about as common as struvite stones. They are, of course, made up of uric acid – a waste product of protein metabolism that is usually passed in the urine. Gout, a high-protein diet, alcohol use, and inflammatory bowel disease are some of the risk factors which cause these painful problems.
Cystine stones: Cystine kidney stones are by far the rarest type of kidney stone. They are caused by a hereditary disease (cystinuria) in which the kidneys fail to absorb enough of the amino acid, cystine.
Best Ways to Get Rid of Kidney Stones
To get rid of kidney stones, you’ll need to visit a doctor.Yes, I’m talking to you, tough guy. It is true that around ninety percent of all kidney stones can be passed at home, with some aspirin and perhaps something to bite down on; however, a visit to the doctor is necessary. A doctor can run blood and urine tests to figure out why you developed the stone, which is essential to prevent kidney stones in the future. They will also be able to prescribe medication, which can prevent, dissolve, or aid the kidney stone in passing. They’ll be able to tell you if passing your stone at home is safe. If you want to get rid of kidney stones, first visit your doctor.
Drinking plenty of water can help prevent and get rid of kidney stones. Not drinking enough water is the most common cause of kidney stones. When urine flow slows, acids and minerals are allowed to accumulate and crystallize in the kidney. To prevent kidney stones from forming, drink enough water to keep your urine clear – which translates to roughly eight to ten glasses of water daily. This aqua regimen can also help shake loose existing kidney stones. The average stone takes 3-4 weeks to pass, but drinking plenty of fluids (not booze) can reduce your sentence.
Like drinking water, exercise can help to both prevent and get rid of kidney stones. Recent studies suggest that the link between obesity and/or weight gain and kidney stones is very strong. Raising your heart rate for at least an hour a day can help ward off weight gain and even help you lose weight (STOP THE PRESS!). When you remain idle for long periods of time, as is the case with bed rest or extreme sloth, your bones will leach more calcium into your body (calcium stones). If you already have a kidney stone and your doctor gives you the OK to pass it at home, moderate exercise can help show your kidney stone to the door (your penis and/or vagina).
Changing your diet is a great way to prevent kidney stones. How you change your diet will depend on what type of kidney stone you’ve previously developed. In general, the kidney stone diet is low in salt and animal protein – especially red meat. If you’ve developed the calcium oxalate kidney stone (most common), you’ll need to lessen your intake of oxalates, but not dietary calcium. Oxalates are found in tea, coffee, chocolate, dark green vegetables (oh well), beer (sigh), and a wide range of fruits and nuts. In many cases, lifestyle changes like this are all one needs to get rid of kidney stones, but be sure to see a doctor and find out what kind of stone you’re prone to first.
OJ won’t kill you; on the contrary, it will help you prevent kidney stones from forming. For many years, kidney stone sufferers who couldn’t handle potassium citrate supplements were told to drink lemonade. Recent studies suggest that the citrate from orange juice is even more effective. The study found that individuals who drank orange juice had a higher concentration of citrate, and less crystallized uric acid and calcium oxalate in their urine. What will the lemon farmers do when life hands them this bit of news?
You could also try Potassium Citrate supplements if you hate the taste of orange juice. You can find them on Amazon.
Kidney Stone Removal
With most kidney stones, your doctor will send you home with a mild pain killer to pass the stone…utterly alone. They may prescribe medication to dissolve the stone or prevent future stones. In rare cases, it will be too large for home treatment, or it may become stuck in the urinary tract. When this happens, you’ll need to get rid of the kidney stone through more invasive procedures. The most common of these is called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL). It involves putting you in water or on a water cushion, and then blasting powerful sound waves over the stone, breaking it into smaller pieces, which are then passed in a matter of weeks. Ureteroscopic kidney stone removal is another popular treatment. It involves inserting a scope through the urethra (fun) and into the ureter until it meets the kidney stone. Then the scope can either be used to grab the stone or break it up into small pieces. These are the most popular kidney stone removal methods. In general, they are outpatient procedures that require local anesthesia and mild sedatives.