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Your kidneys remove waste and fluid from your blood to make urine. When you do not have enough fluid to wash out the wasted your urine becomes concentrated and the wastes may build up, stick together and form particles. Kidney stones are hard deposits of these particles, minerals or salts that stick together in various sizes and can be painful when passing through the urinary tract.
Sometimes there is error in metabolism or concentration of substances from your diet that can also cause an abnormal amount of certain minerals or acids that can also cause kidney stones.
Kidney stones are made up of calcium, uric acid, oxalate, or cystine. Stones develop when you have high levels of these substances in your urine. They can also form when levels are normal but you’re not producing sufficient amounts of urine each day.
When these substances crystallize in your kidneys, they can grow larger over time and form a stone. The stone typically moves through your urinary tract and leaves your body when you urinate.
Larger stones may be more difficult to pass and can block your urinary tract, interfering with your ability to urinate. If stones are too large to pass, it may be recommended that they are removed this usually involves the involvement of another specialist called a Urologist.
Anyone can get a kidney stone, but risk factors include:
- History or kidney stones
- Family history of kidney stones
- High protein, sodium/salt, and or sugar diet
- People who do not drink enough water
- Taking certain medications such as diuretics/water pills or calcium based antacids
- Overweight or obese
- Gastric bypass surgery or other intestinal surgery
- PKD or cystic kidney disease
Conditions that cause your urine to contain high levels of cystine, oxalate, uric acid or calcium.
You may have not any symptoms of kidney stones. When stones are large enough to cause an obstruction in your urinary tract, you can experience persistent discomfort that can range from a mild ache to severe pain. Pain usually occurs in the lower abdomen or on your side between your hip and ribs. Pain can also radiate down into your groin.
Other symptoms of kidney stones can include:
- Blood in your urine or hematuria
- Pain with urination
- Frequent need to urinate
Your physician will assess your symptoms and may perform a physical exam and review of your medical history to rule out other medical conditions.
To confirm a kidney stone diagnosis, they order imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or CT scan. Your physician can measure the size and amount of stones you have to create the most effective treatment options.
Treatment for kidney stones depend or the size, what it is made of, and if it is causing pain or blockage of your urinary tract. Treatment can range from medications, special diet and surgery to remove stones too large to pass. Noninvasive shock wave therapy or lithotripsy, may be used to break stones apart so you can then pass them easily through urination.
The best way to prevent most kidney stones is to drink enough fluids every day. If you have kidney disease and need to limit fluids, ask your doctor how much fluid you should have each day.
Limiting sodium and animal protein (meat, eggs) in your diet may also help to prevent kidney stones. If your doctor can find out what your kidney stone is made of, he or she may be able to give you specific diet recommendations to help prevent future kidney stones.
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