Can you avoid forming kidney stones?
Posted on 6 March 2019
Your kidneys work hard to filter waste from your blood, creating urine that contains calcium, phosphate, oxalate, and uric acid. Usually, these substances are very diluted so they easily flow out when you urinate. But if your urine becomes concentrated (because you are dehydrated, for instance), these minerals and salts can bind together to form a kidney stone.
Professor Schalk Wentzel, a urologist at Mediclinic Bloemfontein, says a major risk factor for kidney stones is low urine volumes. ‘This can be a result of dehydration, strenuous exercise, hot weather or not drinking enough fluids,’ he explains.
In addition, if you – or a family member – have had kidney stones before, eat a lot of protein, salt and sugar, are overweight, have had intestinal surgery in the past or suffer from kidney disease, you might be more likely to develop these stones.
Kidney stones can range in size from a grain of sugar to a golf ball. Generally, you won’t experience any discomfort until the kidney stone passes from your kidney into the ureter (one of two small, delicate ducts that carry urine into your bladder).
“At this point, you might experience intense back pain below your ribs, painful urination, nausea and vomiting,” says Professor Wentzel. A CT scan or MRI will confirm whether your discomfort is due to kidney stones – and the treatment your doctor suggests will depend on the size of the stone.
“If the pain isn’t too bad, you might be advised to wait and see if your system can flush out the kidney stone without surgical intervention,” Professor Wentzel adds. Taking painkillers and drinking lots of water will help and certain medications relax the ureter to help you pass the stone.
If the stone is too large, however, a urologist can remove the kidney stone or break it into small pieces using shock wave lithotripsy while you are under anaesthetic. Alternatively, your doctor might insert a cystoscope or ureteroscope through your urethra to see the rest of your urinary tract. Once the stone is found, your doctor can remove it or break it into smaller pieces. You can typically go home the same day.
“The best way to prevent kidney stones is to drink at least eight glasses of water a day,” Professor Wentzel says. “Limiting sodium and animal proteins – such as meat and eggs – can also help prevent kidney stones. If you have a health condition that makes you more predisposed to developing kidney stones, your health practitioner might prescribe medication.”