Millions of Americans suffer from kidney stones at some point in life — about 11% of men and 6% of women, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Stones can cause considerable pain, but fortunately, several treatment options can help.
At Adult and Pediatric Urology, Alfred Shtainer, MD, FACS, offers safe, effective options aimed at helping patients eliminate kidney stones and relieve the painful symptoms they cause. Let’s look at available treatment options and learn what you can do to reduce your risk of stones in the future.
Quick facts about kidney stones
Your kidneys serve as filters for your blood, removing toxins and other waste materials that are excreted through your urine. If your urine has a high concentration of minerals and other waste products, those substances can wind up binding together, forming hard clumps or stones.
If they’re large enough, these stones can get “stuck” in your urinary tract, causing uncomfortable symptoms, such as:
- Lower back or flank pain that can be severe
- Weak urine stream
- Difficulty urinating
- Fever and chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Cloudy urine
- Foul-smelling urine
While kidney stones are widely associated with severe pain, some people have very mild symptoms.
If you suspect you have a stone, it’s important to seek medical care right away. Without prompt treatment, kidney stones can lead to serious complications, including kidney damage.
Kidney stone treatment options
A smaller kidney stone may be managed with pain medication and drinking plenty of fluids to help wash the stone out of the urinary tract. For stubborn stones, medication may help with passage.
But if the stone is larger or if you have signs of a developing infection, you’ll need more aggressive treatment, like shockwave or laser treatment. In these instances, Dr. Shtainer uses a special scope to administer “doses” of shockwaves or laser energy to break apart the stone so it can pass. These treatments are performed on an outpatient basis, and most people can expect to resume regular activity the next day.
Less commonly, Dr. Shtainer recommends surgery to remove the stone. Typically, surgical removal is reserved for large stones or complex anatomy.
Preventing kidney stones
One of the best ways to reduce your risk of developing kidney stones in the future is to stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day dilutes your urine and helps prevent stones from forming. Be sure to drink extra water during physical activity any time you’re sweating a lot.
For some stones, dietary changes might help. For instance, some kidney stones are made up of calcium oxalate crystals. You may be able to reduce your risks of these stones by reducing your consumption of oxalate-rich foods, like leafy greens, potatoes, almonds, and beets. Because calcium binds with oxalates, boosting your calcium intake could help prevent oxalate stones, too. Reducing sodium intake can also help.
Finally, if you’re prone to kidney stones, medications can reduce your risk of future stones, too. Dr. Shtainer will be able to determine if these medicines can help you during your office visit and evaluation.
Prompt medical care is key
Kidney stones can be painful, and without treatment, they can cause serious damage. If you suspect you have a kidney stone, book an appointment online or over the phone with Dr. Shtainer and our team at the office nearest you in Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Queens, New York.