Questions to Ask Your Urologist: Kidney Stones
If you have questions about kidney stones, then you’ve come to the right place.
For those who have never had a kidney stone, you might simply be wondering what it is. Meanwhile, if you’re currently experiencing a kidney stone, you’re probably more curious about what type of stone you have, if you’ll be able to pass it naturally, and how to prevent one from developing in the future.
As always, we’re here to be your friendly resource for all things related to your urinary tract. Keep reading for our top eight questions to ask your urologist about kidney stones!
Kidney Stones: Your Questions, Answered
1. What is a kidney stone?
When it comes to questions to ask your urologist about kidney stones, we’ll start with the basics. Kidney stones are hard, mineral-based masses that develop from chemicals in the urine. Once a stone forms, it either stays in the kidney or travels down the urinary tract. When a larger kidney stone develops, it can become lodged in the urinary tract — causing a blockage and immense pain.
2. What type of stones do I have?
There are four main types of kidney stones: calcium, struvite, uric acid, and cystine. Knowing which specific type of kidney stone you have will help you and your urologist determine what caused it to form.
- Calcium Oxalate Stones: These are the most common type of kidney stones. They form when urine contains low levels of citrate and high levels of oxalate and calcium.
- Struvite Stones: Mostly common in women, struvite stones typically form in response to a urinary tract infection (UTI).
- Uric Acid Stones: Mostly common in men, uric acid stones develop when urine is too acidic. These stones are also common in someone who has gout, a form of arthritis that results in uric acid buildup.
- Cystine Stones: These stones are often caused by a rare genetic disorder called cystinuria, which causes excessive amounts of cystine to leak into your urine.
3. What are the symptoms of kidney stones?
With kidney stones, you typically won’t notice any symptoms until the stone begins moving within your kidney or passes into your ureters. However, once your kidney stone begins to move, this process can be extremely painful. You may experience the following symptoms:
- Severe pain in your side and back
- Burning sensation while urinating
- Pink, red, or brown urine
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
- A persistent need to urinate
- Nausea and vomiting
4. What causes kidney stones?
Kidney stones always have underlying causes. Once your urologist determines what type of kidney stone you’re experiencing, they will then be able to figure out what caused your stone to develop. Below are some of the most common causes of kidney stones.
- Low urine volume: When urine volume is low, it tends to be more concentrated. Because there is less fluid to dissolve the salt in your urine, kidney stones are more likely to form.
- Diet: Eating food that is high in oxalate, sodium, and animal protein increases your chances of developing a kidney stone.
- Genetic factors: As we mentioned above, genetic factors like cystinuria and gout make someone much more likely to develop kidney stones.
- Recurrent UTIs: If you are prone to chronic UTIs, you are at a higher risk of developing struvite kidney stones.
Learn More: What Causes Kidney Stones?
5. Will I be able to pass the stone naturally?
This is one of the most common questions to ask your urologist about kidney stones. The good news is that you are able to pass kidney stones naturally. The bad news, however, is that this can be an extremely painful process.
If your stone is smaller than 5mm, it will typically be able to pass easily. Meanwhile, larger stones will generally be more painful and might require medical intervention. Depending on the kidney stone’s size and location, the time it takes to pass will also vary. If you are going to let your kidney stone pass naturally, we recommend drinking plenty of water to help keep the stone moving and flush it out of your body.
6. Will medications help me pass the stone?
If you have a smaller kidney stone that you’re trying to pass naturally, medications can help! Passing a kidney stone can cause discomfort, so your doctor may also recommend painkillers to relieve some of the pain. Alpha-blockers are another common medication for kidney stones. This medication works by relaxing the muscles in your ureter to help the stone pass more quickly and with less pain.
7. Should I have surgery to remove the stone?
For larger kidney stones that cannot be passed naturally, surgery might be necessary. Although this is not the case for most stones, your urologist will decide if surgery is needed depending on the kidney stone’s size and location.
In addition to surgery, extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) and a ureteroscopy are two other treatment options for kidney stones. During ESWL, your doctor will use shock waves to break up the kidney stone into smaller pieces, making it much easier for the stone to pass. During a ureteroscopy, your urologist will insert an instrument into your urethra that allows them to grab the stone and effectively remove it.
Related: 4 Ways to Treat Kidney Stones
8. How can I prevent future stones?
Once you’ve experienced a kidney stone and how painful it can be, you’re probably wondering how to prevent one from developing in the future — and we don’t blame you. These tips can help lower your chances of developing kidney stones.
- Drink enough fluids: Chronic dehydration is one of the most common causes of kidney stones. When your urine becomes too concentrated, minerals are more likely to crystalize and stick together, which causes kidney stones. To make sure you’re well hydrated, health experts recommend drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.
- Change your diet: Eating less oxalate-rich foods, reducing your sodium intake, and limiting the amount of protein in your diet are all ways to prevent kidney stones.
- Exercise and practice portion control: Obesity can cause insulin resistance and increased amounts of calcium in your urine, and is therefore a common cause of kidney stones. Exercising regularly and practicing portion control when you eat can help not only prevent kidney stones, but also improve your overall health, too!
- Check your estrogen levels: Low estrogen levels can increase your risk of developing kidney stones, so it is recommended to get your estrogen levels checked regularly — especially after starting menopause.
Proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle are crucial when it comes to preventing future kidney stones. To learn more about our top tips and tricks for achieving and maintaining optimal urology health, download our free Nutrition and Lifestyle Guide.
See One of Our Urology Specialists
If you’ve been wondering what questions to ask your urologist about kidney stones, we hope this blog answered all of your questions. And as always, if you think you are experiencing a kidney stone, schedule an appointment with one of our urologists.
All of our urologists are trained in the latest treatments and procedures to help you with whatever urological problem you may be experiencing. Whether you have questions about kidney stones, or any other urological problem, we’re happy to help! Click the button below to schedule an appointment at your nearest location.