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About Kidney Stones

About Kidney Stones

Dehydration and other conditions can lead to the formation of tiny stones in your kidneys. These deposits may consist of calcium, salt or other substances that accumulate in your urine. They vary in size from tiny sand-like deposits to larger stones. Kidney stones can cause intense pain and complications when they travel through or become stuck in the narrow urinary tract tubes that connect the kidney to the bladder.

The urologists at Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System will diagnose the source of related pain and other symptoms. Treatments can range from medication to ease the pain of passing smaller deposits, to minimally invasive procedures that dissolve larger stones.

Causes of Kidney Stones  

Causes of symptoms and types of kidney stones vary widely depending on your health, dietary habits, inherited traits and other factors. Contributing causes may include:

  • Mineral imbalances due to diet or metabolic disorders
  • Certain medications and supplements
  • Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and other bowel conditions  
  • Dehydration and low or infrequent urine flow
  • Family history of kidney stones 
  • Obesity and related health complications
  • Poor nutrition, especially diets high in salt and protein 
  • High blood levels of oxalate – an organic compound in leafy greens and other foods – that can bind to calcium

Kidney Stone Symptoms

Small deposits sometimes pass during urination with little or no pain. If you have larger kidney stones, or stones that get stuck in the urinary tract, you may experience:

  • Sharp pain in your back or side that won’t go away
  • Bloody, cloudy or foul-smelling urine  
  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting

Diagnosing Kidney Stones

Your doctor will choose diagnostic testing based on your condition, health history and symptoms. Evaluation may include these and other tests:

  • Urine tests – The doctor may ask you to collect urine samples to check for high concentrations of certain minerals. The urologist will also check for signs of other imbalances and disorders.
  • Imaging – Urologists may use ultrasound, CT scans and other imaging tests to locate and identify types of urinary tract stones or conditions. This could include intravenous pyelogram (IVP) – a type of X-ray that provides a detailed view of the kidneys, bladder and ureters.
  • Lab analysis – Our onsite testing facilities include a pathology lab for analysis of kidney stones which helps determine their content and guides treatment decisions. 
  • Blood tests – Results can show levels of calcium, uric acid and other measures of kidney health. Your urologist will also check for signs of other medical conditions. 

Kidney Stone Treatment

Your urologist will discuss diagnostic findings and treatment options. In some instances, small kidney stones will pass if you drink plenty of fluids. Your doctor may recommend over the counter or prescription medication to relieve any discomfort. 

Larger stones can cause severe pain, bleeding, infection and kidney damage. Your urologist may discuss:

  • Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) – Extracorporeal (outside of the body) lithotripsy uses sound waves to break up stones so they can pass out of the body during urination.  
  • Laser surgery for kidney stones – This minimally invasive treatment uses laser energy, guided by a small, flexible telescope, to find and dissolve stones.
  • Percutaneous Nephrolithonomy (PCNL) - A minimally invasive two-step treatment method of removing kidney and ureteral stones that are too large, too numerous, or too dense to be treated with other treatment modalities. 
  • Robotic surgery – For certain complex conditions, your doctor may recommend more major surgery with the assistance of the robot. 
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