Kidney stones are small solid rock like objects that form in the kidneys. The function of kidneys is to clear the waste products and fluids from the body. In this process, the excess acids and salts form turn into solid causing severe pain in the side of abdominal area, nausea, vomiting, fever and blood in urine. When you present yourself to a urologist with these symptoms, he/she may ask for some tests to be done after a physical examination.
Diagnosis of Kidney Stones:
- Blood test – This is done to know the amount of calcium or uric acid in your blood. Blood test helps your urologist to understand the functioning and health of your kidneys. He/she may infer more information from the report related to your Kidney’s health.
- Urine test – Urine is collected twice for this test with a gap of 24 hours. Your doctor wants to know if there is too much stone forming material in the urine.
- CT Scan – Computerized Tomography is an imaging technique used to see if there are any stone formations in your urinary tract. Generally, a CT Scan is preferred over an X-ray because, X-rays can miss smaller stones in their reports.
- Ultrasound Testing – This too is done to look for the presence of kidney stones.
- Analysing Passed Stones – If you are passing small stones in your urine, they will be collected by using a strainer. A chemical composition test can reveal the substances that are making up the stones. Accordingly your urologist will suggest medications, dietary changes, lifestyle habits etc.
Treatment of Kidney Stones
The type of treatment adopted by your doctor depends on the size of the stones and what are causing them.
Treatment for small kidney stones:
- Drink more water – Most often, drinking less (than needed) water is the cause of kidney stone formation. Your urologist may suggest you to have good amount of water every day. Less water in your body will result in depositing more salts in the kidneys while cleaning that can turn into stones instead of getting ejected out through urine. 3 to 4 litres of water per day is an ideal measure.
- Pain Killers – When the stones are small, there are very high chances of them being ejected out of the body. But in the mean time, in order to tolerate the pain that is caused, your urologist may put you onto some pain killers such as ibuprofen.
- Medication to pass kidney stones – Some prescription drugs helps in relaxing the muscles around the ureter (that carries urine from kidneys to the bladder). As a result, small kidney stones find a easy way out from the kidneys. Such medicines are known as ‘alpha blockers’.
Treatment for large kidneys stones
Large kidney stones cannot be passed through urine. They have to be surgically taken out or they have to be broken into tiny pieces and let them pass through urine. There are several different approaches available today. Your urologist will decide on the type of treatment that’s best for you after taking a look at the reports.
- ESWL – Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy. This non-invasive procedure uses shock waves (strong electromagnetic waves) that will be precisely pointed at the kidney stones. Due to the energy passed to the stones, they break up into tiny pieces which will eventually come out through urine. This is a little painful procedure performed for around 60 minutes. You will be put under anesthesia before the procedure starts. The procedure will leave bruises on the back or abdomen, but eventually they will go away. You may feel pain when passing the small stones and may even see urine in blood.
- Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy – A surgical procedure in which small instruments will be inserted through a small incision (on your back) into the kidneys. The stones are removed using these instruments. A little painful procedure but you will be put under anesthesia before starting the procedure. Typically this method is employed when the ESWL is not successful.
- Using Uteroscope – This procedure involves insertion of a tube called uteroscope through the urethra, bladder and the ureter. The scope is equipped with a camera through which your urologist can locate the stones. The stones once located are broken with the instrument and the pieces are allowed to pass through urine.
- Parathyroid gland surgery – At the four corners of the thyroid gland, there exists ‘parathyroid’ glands that produce ‘parathyroid hormones’. In a medical condition called ‘hyper-parathyroidism’, excess parathyroid hormone is produced that results increase in calcium levels in the body and consequently the formation of stones in kidneys. Hyper-parathyroidism can be caused due to small non cancerous tumors that form in their respective glands. Removing the tumour or treating the condition that causes hyper-parathyroidism can bring the hormone levels back to normal and formation of kidney stones will stop.