4 things to know about kidney stones
Kidney stones can be painful, you know that much. But they’re also preventable for many people.
The National Kidney Foundation estimates one in 10 people will have a kidney stone in their lifetime, and they’ve become far more common in recent years.
Dr. Kevin Koo, a family physician with Advocate Aurora Medical Group in Park Ridge, answered some basic questions about kidney stones.
What are they? Kidney stones are tiny clumps of salts and or minerals that form in the kidneys. They can get stuck there or anywhere else downstream in the urinary tract. They can be caused by genetics, diet, dehydration or just random back luck.
How do you prevent them? “The easiest way is to stay well-hydrated, especially when ill, in dry and hot environments, or when exercising,” Dr. Koo says. “Water is best, without any additives, because those substances may lead to kidney stones. Staying well hydrated can help pass the smallest of stones through the urine, leading to no symptoms, like pain or blood in the urine.” In addition, people with a history of kidney stones should talk to their doctor about avoiding certain foods and whether a pre-existing medical condition might leave them more susceptible.
How do you know if you have one? Pain in the lower back or with urination is common, Dr. Koo says. However, that kind of pain can be common for other conditions, so it can be confusing. It’s safest to call your doctor to learn more. Blood in the urine is probably the most specific symptom. When that’s coupled with pain, kidney stones are very likely the cause, he says.
What should you do if you suspect you have one? Call your primary care physician first. They will be able to direct you to their office or other location to be seen. Start drinking more water to help flush out the stone or stones. “Tylenol would be the first pain medicine to try,” Dr. Koo says. “Avoid anti-inflammatories as much as possible because kidney stones can worsen kidney function, which can also be worsened by NSAIDs.”
About the Author
Mike Riopell, health enews contributor, is a media relations coordinator with Advocate Aurora Health. He previously worked as a reporter and editor covering politics and government for the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald and Bloomington Pantagraph, among others. He enjoys bicycles, home repair, flannel shirts and being outside.