Dehydration and Kidney Stones
During the summer months the heat is turned up and your chance of becoming dehydrated is increased. One of the possible side effects of dehydration is the development of kidney stones. When urine is too concentrated from lack of fluids, minerals can build up and form stones.
Stones vary in size from tiny crystals that can only be seen with a microscope to stones over an inch wide. Tiny stones may pass out of your body without your even noticing. With larger stones, you won’t be so lucky. Stones that are larger than a pencil eraser can get stuck in the urinary tract—and some have described the pain as the equivalent to childbirth —causing more than a million people per year to take a trip to the emergency room.
One out of 11 people in the U.S. will be affected by a kidney stone. They can form at any age, but kidney stones usually appear in 40 to 60 year olds. Of those who develop one stone, half of those will develop at least one more at some point in the future.
The best way to prevent kidney stones is to drink more water in the warmer months than you normally drink so you don’t become dehydrated.
If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention:
Frequent & Painful Urination – One of the earliest and most common warning signs that you may have kidney stones is a sudden and unexplained increase in the frequency and urgency of urination. You may feel the need urinate, but are unable to ‘go’.
Spreading Back Pain – Oftentimes patients report pain that begins in their sides and back, just below the rib cage (where the kidneys are located). The pain may travel to the lower abdomen into your groin area and into your lower back.
Blood in Urine – Rather than being clear or yellow in color, your urine can have a pink tint to even a red or brown color. As the condition worsens, you may notice blood in your urine.
Nausea & Vomiting – Some patients feel nauseated and sometimes it’s so severe that it will cause vomiting. One of the causes of vomiting can also be the intense pain associated with passing a kidney stone. Vomiting can also be caused by the body trying to eliminate toxins and waste, since the kidney stones are impairing the kidneys ability to properly function.
Pungent Smelling Urine – Not only will urine be discolored or cloudy, it may also have a foul odor. Normal urine may have a slightly bitter smell from time to time, but if you have a kidney stone, the urine will have a distinct sharp stench due to the concentration of toxins.
Inability to Sit – Sitting and lying-down can put additional pressure on the affected areas of the body which can make the pain even more intense if you have a larger kidney stone.
Fever & Chills – Most people do not leave kidney stones untreated. However, in a few small cases, the kidney stone remains small and doesn’t cause intense pain and other symptoms. However, the stone can create small internal cuts and scratches along the urinary tract creating small wounds which could become infected.
Kidney & Abdominal Swelling – If kidney stones reach a large size they can block the normal flow of urine, preventing urine from traveling through the urethra on its way out of the body. One of the earliest signs that things are reaching this critical stage is intensely painful swelling of the kidneys. When kidneys swell, you will notice inflammation near your lower back that is painful to the touch. It’s critical that you seek medical attention should you notice these symptoms. If left untreated, your body can go into septic shock as it’s unable to rid itself of toxins.
To detect kidney stones, your doctor may order lab or imaging tests. Lab tests look in urine for blood, signs of infection, minerals (like calcium), and stones. Blood tests can also detect high levels of certain minerals. About 80% of all stones are made of calcium oxalate. Knowing what the stones are made of can help guide treatment.
Treatment also depends on the stone’s size and location. CT scans or plain X-ray imaging can help your doctor pinpoint the location and estimate the size of a kidney stone. Depending on what your doctor finds, you may be prescribed medicine and advised to drink a lot of fluids. Or, you might need a procedure to break up or remove the kidney stone.
There are different procedures for breaking up or removing kidney stones. One method delivers shock waves to the stone from outside of the body. Other strategies involve inserting a tool into the body, either through the urinary tract or directly into the kidney through surgery. After the stone is located, it can be broken up into smaller pieces.
Don’t let the pain of kidney stones send you to the emergency room. Keep hydrated! But if you develop any of the symptoms listed above, call your doctor immediately.