Kidney Stones on the Move

Kidney Stones on the Move

Kandra Hawkins of Medford remembers the day her husband, Eric came home, white as a sheet and bent over in pain: "He walked right into the bathroom and starting throwing up," she remembers. He'd eaten a corn dog and cranberry juice, so both Eric and Kandra figured for sure the odd food combination was the cause of Eric's distress.

Not so. Within an hour, Eric was at the emergency room with excruciating pain radiating across his back and into his side, vomiting all the way to the CT scan that showed kidney stones.

Eric's stone had moved from his kidney into the much narrower urinary tract, blocking the flow of urine and causing pressure buildup behind the stone and extreme pain. His treatment? He took medication to relax the muscles of the ureter, and drank lots and lots of water to flush the kidney stone out of his body.

Kidney stones start when the chemicals and compounds in the urine form crystals that grow in size. "A stone can stay up inside the urine-containing part of the kidney and typically not cause any symptoms at all," explains Medford urologist Dr. James Loos. "You wouldn't know it was there."

"For most stones, shock wave lithotripsy is the treatment of choice because it is less invasive," Dr. Loos says. This treatment focuses shock waves at the kidney stones to break them into smaller pieces so that they can be passed while urinating. Medication may also be necessary to relax the bladder and prevent new stones from forming.

Tom Werner of Jacksonville's experienced a sudden painful jerk awake one night, but the pain subsided. His asymptomatic kidney stones were treated with shock wave lithotripsy in a routine, one-hour outpatient procedure.

There are several different kinds of kidney stones, each with unique chemical compositions. The most commonly found kidney stones are made up of calcium oxalate.

Dr. Loos notes that for most people with calcium oxalate kidney stones, a high calcium diet will not cause stones to form. "Having a low calcium diet will cause more oxalate to be absorbed and then more oxalate in the urine will backfire and cause more stones," Dr. Loos explains.

Foods high in oxalate, such as beets, chard, cola and chocolate may affect stone formation in some people, but don't assume that's the case for everyone. "For most people unless they are diagnosed with too much oxalate in the urine or they've had multiple calcium oxalate stones," says Dr. Loos, "it's probably not important to go on a low-oxalate diet." Other dietary changes may include reduced sodium and animal protein depending on what kind of kidney stones you have.

Family history, diet and lifestyle all may contribute to the formation of kidney stones. And certainly if you've had one stone, you're likely to have more. Health professionals agree that the best prevention is to drink lots of water, two to three quarts a day, enough to keep the kidneys flushed and lots of urine coming out.

Even though Tom Werner hasn't changed his eating habits, he's serious about his water intake. "I consciously drink more water to keep things flushed," he says.

Tom's food choices and water intake has been doing the trick, at least so far. It's been three years and he's not had a stone pass or any pain.

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