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Passing a Kidney Stone

kidney pain

Talk to anyone who has experienced the passing of a kidney stone, and they will tell you it isn’t a pleasant experience.

A kidney stone is a solid piece of crystalline mineral formed within the kidney or urinary tract. They form when substances in the urine—such as calcium, oxalate and phosphorus—become highly concentrated. They are fairly common, with one in every 20 people developing a kidney stone at some point in their life.

People with certain medical conditions, such as gout, and those who take certain medications or supplements are at risk for kidney stones. Diet and hereditary factors are also related to stone formation. The most common cause of kidney stones is not drinking enough water. Most stones develop in people 20 to 49 years of age, and are more common in men than in women. People prone to kidney stones will most likely continue to develop further stones.

Kidney stones often cause no pain while they are in the kidneys. But larger stones that travel from the kidneys to the bladder or along the urinary tract can bring on a sudden onset of symptoms, most notably strong waves of pain.

A larger stone (usually larger than 0.12 inches) may get stuck along the urinary tract and block the flow of urine. These larger stones can cause excruciating, cramping pain in the lower back, side, groin or abdomen. Changes in body position do not relieve this pain. The pain typically waxes and wanes in severity. Other associated symptoms include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • blood in the urine
  • painful urination

The best initial remedy is to drink ample fluids for maximum hydration. Over-the-counter pain medication, such as Acetaminophen (Tylenol), can be taken to help with the pain and discomfort.

If you suspect you may have kidney stones, your physician can recommend the best course of treatment for you. Medications are available to speed the passage of kidney stones. For particularly large kidney stones that are not able to pass on their own, shock waves can be used to break the stone into smaller fragments with a procedure known as lithotripsy. Surgical treatments are also available for stones that do not respond to other treatment methods.

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