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What Are Kidney Stones?: Identification, Causes, Effects, And Treatments For Kidney Stones

According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. seek medical assistance for kidney stones each year. In the presence of kidney stones, urethral pain, as well as localized abdominal and lower back pain, are a common occurrence.

Identification of Kidney Stones

The urethra is the anatomical structure that serves as the opening to the bladder. In women, the opening is located just in front of the vagina, and in men the urethra is on the tip of the penis. Urethral pain can present as a dull pain, or a throbbing pain depending on the severity of the problem. Kidney stones can be identified by taking an X-ray of the bladder and other abdominal structures in the urinary tract. On an X-ray, the kidney stones are visible as white spots.

Causes of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are hard, stone-like objects that develop from the chemicals in a person’s urine. These “stones” can cause backups of urine in the urethra, or other parts of the urinary tract. There is a positive correlation between the amount of uric acid present in the urinary tract, and the probability of kidney stone formation.

Effects of Kidney Stones

While most small kidney stones pass without the person knowing it, the blockages from the larger stones can cause pain. It is this pain which typically motivates people to seek medical assistance. In some cases kidney stones can cause damage to the urinary tract in the form of scar tissue. The resulting scar tissue can make it difficult for urine to pass through the urinary tract at the rate it is supposed to.

Treatment of Kidney Stones

A physician can prescribe medication to manage the pain associated with kidney stones. Be sure to consult with a doctor before taking an over-the-counter pain killer when kidney stones are present. Kidney stones can be treated in a variety of ways, depending on the severity. In most cases, treatment consists of simply waiting for the stone to pass out of the body. In more extreme circumstances, when the stone cannot pass on its own, treatments can include shock wave therapy or surgical intervention to break up and remove stones.

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According to the Cleveland Clinic, increasing water intake, reducing salt intake, and including adequate calcium in the diet can help to prevent kidney stones. Also avoiding foods such as chocolate and organ meats, which raise the level of uric acid in the urine, can assist in this process. If kidney stones are a recurring problem, and lifestyle modifications alone are not managing them, a physician can prescribe medications to help prevent the stones. Overall prevention of kidney stones should be the ultimate goal. By doing so people avoid the painful effects, and potential damage to the urinary tract.

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