Philip Koi, MD, is a member of Banner Thunderbird Medical Center’s medical staff.
Question: What are some of the signs or symptoms of kidney stones?
Answer: Kidney stones may cause severe flank, or loin pain. It is usually intermittent in nature and the pain can course down to the groin. Patients may also have blood in the urine, nausea/vomiting, frequent urinary tract infections, or just general malaise. For stones that are lower down in the urinary tract, they can manifest as urinary frequency, urgency, burning on urination.
Question: Do all kidney stones cause signs/symptoms?
Answer: Sometimes, patients don't even know they have kidney stones. Stones may lie dormant in the kidney and do not cause any symptoms. It’s the ones that find their way into the ureter (the passageway to the bladder) that become troublesome and can cause the aforementioned signs and symptoms.
Question: How do I know when I should go to the hospital if I suspect a kidney stone?
Answer: If you have severe pain refractory to pain medication, cannot eat/drink due to severe nausea/vomiting, have a fever associated with the aforementioned signs/symptoms, or have a solidary kidney or a history of renal insufficiency, then you should go to the emergency department.
Question: How can I get my kidney stones treated?
Answer: For smaller kidney stones, most will pass spontaneously. For larger stones that do not end up passing, these can be treated with shockwave lithotripsy, which is not invasive and involves shocking the stone from outside the body. Another method of treating stones is ureteroscopy which entails passing a scope with a camera into the bladder from the urethra and up the ureter to visualize the stone and either extract or laser fragment it. Finally, for really large stones, access of the kidney from the back with a large scope and camera and be used to eradicate these troublesome large pieces.
Question: What can I do to prevent kidney stones?
Answer: Keeping yourself well hydrated, especially in the hot summer months is the best overall remedy. Drinking enough fluids to maintain at least 2 liters of urine per day is optimal. A low salt and low protein diet can also help minimize risk factors for stone formation. Citrus juices (particularly lemon juice) may also assist in stone prevention.