The occurrence of kidney stones is increasing within the United States. Currently, men have a 10 percent chance of developing a kidney stone during their lifetime, while women face a seven percent likelihood throughout their lives.
As more cases arise, individuals are discovering that these mineral buildups often inflict tremendous pain and internal discomfort. The removal of a kidney stone often comes in the form of “passing” it through the urinary system.
In the event of a diagnosed kidney stone, and based upon your doctor’s recommendations, there are approaches to helping the foreign body pass more easily.
Measuring the Kidney Stone Size
To successfully pass a kidney stone through your system, it is essential to have a gauge of size to know if exterior intervention is necessary.
Typically, any stone 4 millimeters (mm) or less in length will pass on its own within 31 days. Between 4 mm and 6 mm, only 60 percent will pass without medical intervention, and on average take 45 days to exit your body naturally. Anything bigger than 6 mm will almost always need medical care to help remove the stone. If passed without care of a urologist, the severe pain can last upwards of a year.
Locating the Kidney Stone
Having a kidney stone pass easily also involves where the location of the mineral buildup is within the renal system. While formation takes place inside the kidneys, the hardened stones can also be found in the ureters — the thin tubes that allow urine to pass from the kidneys into the bladder. After moving through the kidneys and ureters, kidney stones can be located inside the bladder, waiting to exit the body.
Research has shown that kidney stones inside the ureter, which are closer to the bladder, have a 79 percent chance of passing on their own. Kidney stones higher up in the ureter only have shown a 48 percent chance of passing without medical treatment.
Getting a Kidney Stone to Pass
After identifying the size and location of your kidney stone, follow the recommended treatment by your doctor. The vast majority of small kidney stones (< 4 mm) are able to be passed without medical intervention and can be helped with these steps:
(Drinking water can help flush out your renal system and move along kidney stones.)
Drinking water: By consuming as much as 3 liters of water a day, this will help flush out your renal system.
Take pain medication: Kidney stones can be extremely painful, therefore, taking pain medication like ibuprofen can help make the passing less agonizing.
Get an alpha-blocker from your doctor: An alpha-blocker can help relax your ureter and progress the kidney stone through your system.
Cut out the right foods: Removing high-oxalate foods like spinach, beets, potatoes, and nuts, as well as animal protein can help limit kidney stone minerals from forming.
Drink juice: Consuming juices from lemons, basil, and dandelion roots can provide compounds that regulate uric acid levels and help breakdown calcium deposits.
For larger stones (> 4 mm), medical treatment is often required to enable kidney stones to be passed through the body. Common methods of care include soundwave therapy, surgery, and using a ureteroscope.
Shock Wave Therapy: A process called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy creates vibrations targeted at kidney stones to break the larger minerals into smaller pieces that can be passed by the body.
(Shock wave therapy is used to break up larger kidney stones.)
Surgery: Specially titled, percutaneous nephrolithotomy, this surgery removes the kidney stones using small telescopes and instruments.
Ureteroscope: To remove a large stone located in the ureter, this method uses a thin scope to enter through the urethra and retrieve or break up the mineral deposit.
Kidney stones that do not receive the proper medical treatment can ultimately cause bleeding, urinary tract infections, and organ damage/failure.
When to See a Urologist
Kidney stones that do not receive the proper medical treatment can ultimately cause bleeding, urinary tract infections, and organ damage/failure. If you suspect you might have a kidney stone or are having complications with your renal system seeing a urologist is strongly recommended.
Contact our office to be seen by a specialist to provide personalized care and treatment for all your urology needs.