A doctor places a kidney stent, also called a ureteral stent, to keep urine flowing from the kidney to the bladder, usually after you have a kidney stone or some other obstruction.
While your doctor ideally places a kidney stent to help you feel better, an estimated 80 percent of people report stents are uncomfortable. This may be especially true when trying to sleep.
Fortunately, there are a lot of ways both you and your doctor can work to relieve stent-related discomfort. Keep reading to find out.
Sleep is really important when you’re recovering from a ureteral stent placement. Your body needs time to heal and regain energy, so feeling comfortable for sleep is important.
Here are some methods you can use to improve your sleep with a stent.
Ask your doctor about alpha-blockers
Alpha-blockers are medications that help reduce ureteral stent pain. Examples of these medications include
These medications help reduce spasms in the ureters, which can cause cramping, and help keep the ureter open.
If you find you have cramping and discomfort related to your stent, ask your doctor about this medication option.
Common side effects of alpha-blockers include:
- dizziness when standing up
- stuffy nose
- retrograde ejaculation (in males)
Also ask about anticholinergic medications
Anticholinergic medications are another alternative to alpha-blockers. These medications help reduce some post-stent placement symptoms, such as urinary frequency or urgency.
If these symptoms are keeping you up at night, talk with your doctor about these medication options. An example is solifenacin.
Anticholinergics are commonly used for other conditions like overactive bladder. Side effects may include dry mouth and constipation.
Take an over-the-counter pain reliever
Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), before going to bed may help reduce stent-related discomfort while you sleep.
Ibuprofen may be more effective for stent-related pain due to its combined pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects.
Ask your doctor before taking aspirin, however. It’s a natural blood thinner and could potentially increase your bleeding risks after stent placement.
Time your fluid intake
You’ll want to drink plenty of water after you have a stent placed. This will help you flush blood and urine through your kidneys.
However, drinking too much water close to bedtime can cause you to make several additional trips to the bathroom at night.
To address this concern, try to drink plenty of water during the day and start to taper off your intake after dinner. This can help reduce the urinary frequency and urgency you may experience at night.
Your goal will be to keep your urine pale yellow whenever possible. This color indicates that you’re hydrated.
Avoid exercise in the hours before bed
Physical activity and exercise can increase discomfort. Avoiding these activities before bed can help reduce discomfort.
This doesn’t mean you have to avoid physical activity altogether — just that you may wish to avoid physical activity in the hours before you go to bed.
While doctors haven’t established a single best position for reducing stent-related discomfort when sleeping, there are some reports that people feel better sleeping on the opposite side where their stent is placed.
However, this isn’t backed up by research. You may have to try different sleeping positions to determine how you can get more comfortable.
Your doctor will let you know if you have any restrictions following urinary stent placement.
Typically, you can perform most activities, work, and even sexual activity with a stent in place, providing it doesn’t cause you great discomfort to do so.
There is one exception: when you have a stent with an extraction string. This is a special stent designed so you can remove the stent yourself after it’s been in place for a certain amount of time.
Stents with strings have a slightly higher rate of dislodgment. Avoid sexual activity while you have one in place to prevent dislodging the stent.
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When you sleep, make sure the string is in a place where you can locate it easily. Sometimes, your doctor will tape the strings down to your leg or groin until you remove it.
Stent-related irritation can cause a lot of different symptoms including discomfort. Examples include:
- visible blood in urine
- flank or pelvic pain
- incontinence, or loss of control over urine
- pain when urinating
- urinary frequency
- urinary urgency
Ideally, these symptoms will subside within a few days after the stent placement when you’re more used to the stent’s presence.
If you have severe pain
While stents can cause discomfort, they shouldn’t result in severe pain. If over-the-counter or prescribed pain medications aren’t managing the pain well, call your doctor.
Uncontrolled pain could indicate the stent isn’t in the correct place. Some people even report seeing the stent coming out when they have uncontrolled pain.
A urinary stent’s presence can increase the risks of a urinary tract infection (UTI). Call your doctor if you experience some of the following symptoms, as they can indicate you may have an infection:
- large amounts of blood or blood clots in urine
- burning sensation when urinating
- temperature greater than 101.5°F (38.6°C)
- malaise, or an overall sense of being unwell
- pain that’s getting worse in your flank or pelvis
- problems feeling like you can’t completely empty your bladder
Call the doctor that placed the stent if you’re having infection symptoms or are worried the stent has gone out of place.
Kidney stents can be an uncomfortable yet necessary intervention to help keep your kidneys working at their best. If you experience discomfort, over-the-counter or prescription medications may help address this.
Also, working to find the right sleeping position may lessen your discomfort as well.
If the pain starts to worsen instead of improving, notify your doctor. The stent may be in the wrong place.
Anticholinergic drug exposure and the risk of dementia: A nested case-control study