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Health and Fitness News

Pain Worse than Childbirth

At least that’s what they say. Here’s what you need to know about the painful world of kidney stones.

You may have heard people say they’ve never experienced worse pain than that of passing a kidney stone. These teeny, tiny deposits that form in the kidneys can cause excruciating pain. Sometimes they go completely unnoticed. If you’ve never had a painful kidney stone, count your blessings.

What are the symptoms of kidney stones, why do they form, and how are they treated? Keep reading to find out.

Severe Pain

You may not know that you have a kidney stone until it moves around inside your kidney or the stone actually leaves the kidney, moves through the ureter, and makes its way to your bladder. When this happens, you may feel sharp, cramping, radiating pain in your side, back, lower abdomen, or groin. As it moves through the urinary tract, you’ll feel pain in different locations, and the pain may come and go in waves.

When a kidney stone is hanging out inside your urinary tract, you may feel the need to urinate more often than normal. When you do urinate, it may be painful, and you may find that not much urine will come out. Additionally, your urine may be brown, red, pink, or cloudy. It’s not uncommon to experience nausea or vomiting with kidney stones. If an infection sets in, you may develop a fever and chills. Severe pain, vomiting, fever, and blood in the urine may occur. If they do, seek immediate medical attention.

Various Causes

In many cases, the cause of a kidney stone is never determined. There are risk factors, however, that can increase your likelihood of suffering a kidney stone. When your kidneys lack the amount of fluid they need to dilute minerals that form crystals or when your urine is deficient of substances that normally work to keep crystals from forming, stones may develop.

For these reasons, dehydration is a major risk factor for kidney stones. Diet can also affect the growth of stones. Too much calcium, sodium, animal protein (beef, chicken, pork, or fish), or foods rich in oxalate (beets, spinach, bran, nuts, French fries, and potato chips) can lead to the development of crystals. Other risk factors include obesity, genetics, frequent diarrhea, certain medical conditions, and some medications.

Types of Stones

Knowing the type of kidney stone you have makes it easier to treat and helps you know what steps you can take to prevent their recurrence. For this reason, if you pass a stone, try to collect it for your doctor to analyze. Kidney stones come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors, so don’t be surprised if your next stone passed looks different than a previous one.

The most common type of kidney stone is made of calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate. These stones typically form due to diet, health conditions, or medications. Uric acid stones are most often seen in people who are dehydrated, have gout, are overweight, have diabetes, deal with chronic diarrhea, or eat a high protein diet. Stones made of struvite may form when you have a urinary tract infection. Cystine stones develop due to a genetic disorder of the kidneys.

Passing the Stone

When a kidney stone has been diagnosed, sometimes the only thing you can do is wait for it to pass out of the body. The smaller the stone, the more easily it will pass. When the pain is manageable and there’s no infection, it may take up to six weeks to pass a kidney stone. Medications may be needed for pain or to relax the ureter to help a stone pass more easily.

When a stone doesn’t pass, it causes severe pain, or it affects the function of the kidneys, surgery may be required to remove the stone. There are multiple surgical options available, most which are minimally invasive and performed on an outpatient basis.