A kidney stone is a hard mass that is created from the salts and excess minerals that the body produces. When there is not enough water in the body, excess minerals can sometimes stick together, which causes kidney stones to form. These stones can stay in the kidneys or move through the urinary tract.
There usually isn't any kind of severe damage that occurs with a kidney stone, but passing one can be painful. Sometimes, if a stone is too large to pass on its own, then further treatments can break up the stone to make it easier to get through the urinary tract. Surgery is often the last resort unless there is significant pain or a blockage that is preventing normal function of the kidneys.
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There are sometimes no symptoms of a kidney stone. You can pass a small stone without knowing that one is in the kidney. However, if a stone is large enough or moves in a way that irritates the kidney or the urinary tract, then it can cause severe pain. The pain is usually felt in the upper back or on the side of the body that is impacted by the stone. As the kidney stone moves, the pain will often shift as well to the lower area of the abdomen. Once the stone is passed, then the pain usually subsides.
You might experience pain while urinating or see blood in the urine. There is often a need to urinate more often than normal as the stone can sometimes block the urinary tract and prevent all of the urine from emptying out of the kidneys like it should.
If you have any symptoms of a kidney stone, then you should see a doctor. An MRI or a CT scan can often detect a kidney stone unless it is too small. Once a kidney stone is diagnosed, you will usually be given some kind of pain medicine. Some doctors will give you a strainer that is placed over the toilet that will catch a stone when it's passed. A blood or urine test can sometimes detect if there is something wrong with the kidneys. If there is any trace of blood in the urine or elevated white blood cells, then the doctor will know that there is an infection present or that there is an issue with kidney function.
Most of the time, you can pass a kidney stone without any kind of invasive medical treatment. Drinking more water and taking a pain reliever is often the best treatment for a kidney stone. Medications can sometimes be given that will help to relax the body, allowing kidney stones to pass easier through the urinary tract. In some cases, a minimally invasive procedure is needed in order to remove the stones and provide relief.
These can include ureteroscopy (a small wire basket inserted through a scope to collect and remove stones), laser lithotripsy (the use of a laser to break apart kidney stones to make them easier to pass), or extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (the use of high-energy sound waves to break apart the stones).
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