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Health and Fitness News

Worst. Pain. Ever.

Four things you should know about kidney stones.

Childbirth is painful. Passing a kidney stone is even worse. At least according to women who have done both. But the bad news doesn’t end there. Because kidney stones aren’t just painful. They’re also quite common. In fact, 10 percent of people can expect to have a kidney stone at some point in life.

So, when the pain hits, what’s going on? What causes kidney stones and how are they treated? Read on to find out.

The Stones

Your urine contains waste chemicals. When there’s too much waste and too little liquid, the waste chemicals may crystalize into stones made of minerals and salts. Known as kidney stones, they can range from being the size of a grain of sand to a golf ball.

There are four kinds of kidney stones: calcium oxalate (the most common type), uric acid, cystine, and struvite. Knowing what kind of stone you have can help determine why it formed. This information can also help you prevent it from happening again. If you pass a stone, try to save it to take to your doctor.

The Pain

You won’t know you have a kidney stone until it moves into the kidney or flows into your ureters (the tubes that connect the kidneys to your bladder). If the stone gets stuck in the ureters, that’s when the pain kicks in.

Sharp pain may be felt in your back, sides, and under your ribs. It may extend to your belly and groin. The pain may come and go. You may feel sharp, burning pain when you try to urinate. Your urine may be tinted pink, red, or brown. Or it may look cloudy and have a nasty smell. Whatever it looks like, you won’t want to urinate. Despite this, you’ll constantly feel like you have to go, and when you try, only a small amount will come out. Some people also experience nausea and vomiting. If the stone causes infection, you may have a fever and chills.

The Reasons

Since there’s no single cause of kidney stones, you may never know why one developed. However, there are several things that increase your risk. If you’ve had one before, you’re more likely to get another. Kidney stones also seem to run in families. So if your mom or dad dealt with kidney stones, you’re at greater risk.

Don’t drink enough water? Be prepared for a kidney stone. Other risk factors are too little or too much exercise, weight loss surgery, and obesity. Eating a diet that includes too much sugar, protein, and sodium puts you at risk as well. As do certain medications and supplements. These include vitamin C, excessive laxatives, antacids that contain calcium, and drugs used to treat depression and migraines.

The Relief

Whether through blood, urine, or imaging tests, your doctor can diagnose your kidney stone. Lab analysis will then determine its type and cause. It will also help determine the best course of treatment.

Small stones often pass on their own. Sometimes all you need to do is drink a lot of water and take pain reliever medication. Your doctor may prescribe medication that relaxes your ureter muscles to pass the stone with less pain.

Large stones are harder to pass. When they cause extreme pain, stones may require more invasive treatment. Your doctor may use sound waves to break the stone into small pieces. Or a scope may be inserted to remove the stone or break it up. In some cases surgery is required to remove stones from the kidneys.