Kidney stones can cause extreme pain. There are many ways to treat and prevent them.
What are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones, otherwise known as renal lithiasis, are made of mineral and acid salts. They develop in the kidneys, but they can affect the entire urinary tract. The minerals stick together, crystallizing, when the urine is concentrated. While they are extremely painful in the body, they generally don’t cause permanent damage.1 There are a few types of kidney stones, and some are named based on their location. The ureter one is called uretolithiasis, the bladder one is cystolithiasis, and the kidney one is nephrolithiasis. Other kidney stones are classified by their chemical composition. The vast majority of people who get kidney stones are men. Even though small stones can be passed asymptomatically, larger ones could obstruct the ureter. This can lead to pain and spasms. The rib, hip, lower abdomen, and groin can have a lot of pain. Pain in the lower back is also common. Patients with renal colic can have fever, vomiting, nausea, and pus and blood in the urine.2
Usually, drinking a lot of water and taking pain medication will make it easier to wait for the stone to pass on its own; rarely, surgery will be required. There are also ways to prevent kidney stones.3 The types of medication offered for pain management range from NSAIDs to opioids. If surgical intervention is required, shock waves may to used to break up the stones. In severe cases, invasive surgery and lasers could be required. Some patients may need a ureteral stent (a tube in the ureter) that allows the obstruction to be bypassed.4 Surgical options a urologist might use include shock wave lithotripsy (to crush the stone), ureteroscopy (sending up a tube to find and break up or remove the stone), and percutaneous nephrolithotomy (using a tool fed into the kidney, through the back, to remove or break up the stones).5
CAM and Prevention
Once the type of kidney stone is identified, there are ways to prevent having more. Diet and nutrition changes will be needed. Most importantly, patients should drink 2-3 liters of fluid a day, with water being the best option, and citrus drinks being a secondary choice. It is also important to monitor how much a patient consumes animal protein, sodium, calcium, and oxalate. Patients need to get enough calcium. They should reduce sodium and animal protein intake. Avoiding high oxalate foods (i.e., nuts, rhubarb, spinach, and wheat bran) can also be helpful.6 Patients may also wish to avoid grapefruit juice, soft drinks, chocolate, tea, peanuts, and strawberries. Certain supplements may also help prevent stones, such as B6 and magnesium citrate.7 Other helpful supplements include Vitamins A and C and lysine. It is also possible certain medications may trigger kidney stones, such as Sulphasalazine (for rheumatoid arthritis), Triamterene (diuretic), certain antacids (Trisilicate and Acetazolamide), and Furosemide (for heart conditions). Patients with kidney stones may wish to seek CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) assistance from herbalists or try acupuncture.8