Many experience a pain so intense that it is commonly compared to that of childbirth. This stabbing pain is due to a kidney stone – a hardened deposit of salt and minerals that form inside the kidney and can travel to other parts of the urinary tract.
About 1 in every 11 people in the United States will suffer an unwelcome visit from a kidney stone in their lifetime. They are more common in men, people who are obese and those who have diabetes.
Stones have been caused by many different factors – particularly when urine becomes concentrated with higher levels of certain minerals – and can affect any part of the urinary tract (from your kidneys to your bladder). This could indicate that your diet is too high in sodium, sugar and/or protein. Too much salt in your diet, especially, increases the amount of calcium your kidneys must filter, thus leaving you at risk for kidney stones.
Other risk factors include: a family history of developing kidney stones; dehydration; previous digestive disease and surgery; other medical conditions (including renal tubular acidosis, cystinuria, hyperparathyroidism) as well as certain medications.
Here are some of the other ways a kidney stone may present itself throughout the body:
– Severe pain in the side and back, below the ribs
– Pain that radiates to the lower abdomen and groin
– Pain that comes in waves and fluctuates in intensity
– Pink, red or brown urine (or cloudy and/or foul-smelling)
– Urinating more often than usual due to a persistent need, yet expelling small amounts
– Fever and chills if an infection is present
As painful as they are, kidney stones will not cause any permanent damage if recognized in a timely manner and will mostly pass on their own through drinking lots of water and taking medication to relieve the pain. Though in complicated circumstances, surgery may be needed. In these instances, the stone may become lodged in the urinary tract or can be associated with a urinary infection.
If your pain is so severe that it is a struggle to be in a comfortable position or if you’re experiencing accompanying vomiting, nausea, fever or chills with the pain, seek immediate medical attention. The same should also apply should you find difficulty passing urine or should you see blood in your urine.
Prevent kidney stones from forming by practicing these habits:
– Drink the recommended amount of water daily (according to your weight and activity level)
– Consume calcium-rich foods and drinks
– Reduce sodium from your diet (current guidelines suggest limiting total daily sodium intake to 2,300 mg or 1,500 mg if you’ve had a previous kidney stone due to high sodium levels)
– Limit animal protein (daily meat intake should be no larger than a pack of playing cards)