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Kidney Stones – Insight to understand this common condition.

What are kidney stones?

The kidneys are bean-shaped organs found above the waist; one on the left side of the body and one on the right.  As part of the urinary system, kidneys play a number of important roles such as removing waste from the body and balancing the amount of water in the body.  The kidneys also help create blood cells, control blood pressure and promote healthy bones.

There are several types of natural substances in the body that can form Kidney stones.  Calcium oxalate is the most common, but other stone types include struvite, uric acid and cysteine.  Kidney stones form when these materials stick together and form crystals that can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball.  This happens when there is too much waste material in the urine and too little fluid.

How do I know if I have Kidney Stones?

Small kidney stones travel through the body and often pass through the urine without causing any problems.  Larger stones do not pass in the urine and may cause nausea, vomiting and severe back pain, which starts suddenly in the back and under the ribs or lower abdomen and can spread to the front of the body.

By ordering a blood test, your doctor can also look at your kidney health overall and check for other medical conditions.  Once a kidney stone passes from your body, the type and size of the stone are determined by sending it to a lab for analysis.

How can I prevent Kidney Stones?

There are a number of simple things you can do to prevent Kidney Stones.  You can start by drinking enough water throughout the day and when exercising.  Keeping the kidneys flushed to reduce the concentration of waste particles and higher fluid content to flush the kidneys easier.  Making appropriate changes to your diet, such as reducing salt and sugar intake.

Foods to avoid.

Beets, chocolate, spinach, rhubarb, tea and most nuts, all of which are high in oxalate.  Also, Cola’s are rich in phosphate, both are contributors in forming kidney stones.  Your doctor may advise you to avoid these foods or consume them in smaller amounts.

What treatments are available?

Most stones pass through the body within hours or a few days without treatment.  To reduce pain, your doctor may prescribe painkillers and advise you to drink fluids.  In certain cases, your doctor may prescribe a mediation to help the kidney stones pass more easily with less pain.  Some of the less common types of kidney stones can be dissolved using medications so they can pass more easily through the urine.  Stones that are too large to pass have to be crushed with Ultrasound waves   (known as extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy or ESWL).

Kidney stones usually do not cause damage, but can be painful. The good news is that they can be managed effectively.

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Carol Wilmot, Director of Nursing
Phone: 604-781-4784
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