Mona Khanna, MD, MPH, talks about the signs and symptoms of kidney stones and treatments.
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Graphic: What are kidney stones? Dr. Mona Khanna: Kidney stones are actually crystallizations from the urine that can occur as a result of ingesting certain substances or as a result of infection. And these stones are mostly passed unnoticed because they happen very, very frequently. It's just when they are a little too big and they create a little bit of blockage that's when the problem sets in. Graphic: What are the signs and symptoms of kidney stones? Dr. Mona Khanna: A large kidney stone that cannot pass through the ureter, which is the tube from the kidneys to the urethra which is where the urine comes out can cause blockage. When that blockage happens it can be intensely painful, some women who have had kidney stones actually compare it to labor that is how painful it can be. Some of the other sick signs can be blood in the urine, but mostly the sign that you are going to feel is intense, intense pain. Usually the pain occurs at the side because your kidneys are found in your flank area and that pain can actually move if the stone travels. So, best way to describe a kidney stone, signs or symptoms are intense pain, possibly blood in the urine. Graphic: What are some risk factors for developing kidney stones? Dr. Mona Khanna: There are certain risk factors for kidney stones. If you are a Caucasian, if you are male, if you are over the age of 40, if you have thyroid problems, if you have a personal history and having a kidney stone in the past or a family history of having kidney stones in the family and may be because there is some defect with metabolism or how your body is reacting to certain substances, those can now put you at a higher risk for developing a kidney stone. Graphic: How are kidney stones diagnosed? Dr. Mona Khanna: Kidney stones are diagnosed with X-rays, sometimes more specialized X-rays like CAT scans. But many kidney stones can also been seen just with the regular X-ray. Graphic: How are kidney stones treated? Dr. Mona Khanna: Most kidney stones, they actually don't cause that intense pain symptom are passed unnoticed. So, there really isn't anything to worry about in terms of treatment, but for the other stones that possibly can be causing a blockage with that intense pain. We like to have patients drink as much water as they can tolerate, to try to help flush that kidney stone out. If that doesn't work of course surgery in an option or there is another procedure called Lithotripsy. And what that means is that sound waves are applied intensely and the stone is actually crushed into little pieces, so it then can be passed, but the most effective way to do it is drinking the water possibly changing the Ph of the urine to help that stone go through by itself. Graphic: Is there any way to prevent kidney stones? Dr. Mona Khanna: If you know you are at a high risk for developing a kidney stone, you may be put on medications to prevent stone formation that's the first thing. You also should always drink a lot of water, because that again will help flush the smaller stones out that won't cause a blockage. There are foods that are high in a substance that we call Oxalates and those foods in that substance actually can help form kidney stones, so again if you have personal history of having a kidney stone or if you have a family history of having kidney stones. You may want to decrease your intake of these foods that are high in oxalates. Some of them are Rhubarb, spinach, beets, chocolate, wheat germ, soya crackers, peanuts, okra, sweet potatoes and even black tea.