Did you know there are more than three million cases of kidney stones per year in the United States? Kidney stones can be quite painful and life-threatening if left untreated. They are more common in men than women, and symptoms can last weeks to months. Approximately 79 percent of kidney stones do pass on their own. Without intervention, however, some patients will need surgery to relieve obstruction of the urinary tract.
The most common symptoms are pain in the abdomen or lower back; pain that worsens during movement; blood in the urine; fever; nausea; vomiting; chills; difficulty urinating; or painful, burning urination. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it’s best to not delay seeing a urologist. “To determine diagnosis, generally we check an urinalysis; take a history; do a physical exam; and then sometimes we need to do X-rays, ultrasounds or scopes of the urinary tract to determine the specific diagnosis. Not every patient needs surgery, but some do. It’s rare to do open surgery anymore. If necessary, we can laser stones into pieces or use extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) to break up stones so they pass through urine easily. But a lot of people just need the right medicine to help them pass the stone,” Dr. Mark Bowles, board-certified urologist with Blount Memorial Physicians Group – Urology said.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent kidney stones. Simply changing a few daily habits can have a significant impact on your kidneys. Daily fluid intake – specifically drinking water – can be very beneficial. “Two-thirds of your body is made of water, and that’s what your body really needs,” Bowles said. Experts recommend at least 64 ounces of water per day. Another helpful habit is to go to the bathroom when you need to instead of delaying until it’s painful. Not going too frequently, or not going when your bladder isn’t completely full, also can be helpful. Avoiding fizzy, caffeinated or dark-colored drinks, watching your salt intake, and reducing your red meat intake also can help limit the prevalence of kidney stones. Adding lemon to your water anddrinking orange juice and lemonade have been reported to help prevent kidney stones, as well.
Due to the nature of what’s being discussed, it can be common for people to delay treatment when it comes to urologic conditions, however, you shouldn’t let that keep you away. “Don’t be shy. We’re happy to talk with you and see if there is a problem. You really shouldn’t be embarrassed to come in and talk about any urologic issues you may have. We’ve trained in this area, and we do understand that there’s some anxiety, but we try to put patients at ease. We try to give patients a better quality of life, relieve their anxiety and reassure them. Most urologic cases are treatable – we just need to see you to get you treated,” Bowles added. "It is better for all involved to be diagnosed earlier rather than later."
If kidney stones or other urologic issues are impacting your quality of life, or if you’d like to schedule an appointment with Blount Memorial Physicians Group – Urology, call 865-980-5260.