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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Health Tip: Dealing With Kidney Stones

From a patient's perspective

By: Clay Gillespie

Before anything, if you think you have stones, ask your doctor for an X-Ray. Doctors can't read your mind, and communication is key.

Over the past five years, I've had five kidney stones. All of mine were calcium-oxalate. I've passed three of them, had one taken care of through Lithotripsy, and have had one dissolve on my own.

Kidney stones can be painful, but luckily there's a lot of ways to go about dealing with them. Besides, when you're reading this, you're probably either genuinely curious or laying in bed trying to ease the pain through any means possible, right?

So, here's my compiled list of my experiences and what may work for you. Everyone is different, so if one "remedy" doesn't alleviate your situation, try others.

Dealing with pain
  • Stones hurt. But the pain isn't forever. This is important to remember when the pain comes.
  • The pain is when the stone leaves the kidney and travels to the bladder through the ureter. Think of it like a 3-stop-trip. Kidney, bladder, toilet. The ureter connects the kidney and bladder and is very narrow, much more narrow than you're urethra. It's painful because it kinks up the ureter "hose" and pressure builds. Make sure you have hydrocodone prescribed and in good quantity, and don't be afraid to take aspirin to ease the swelling. Be careful though. Don't put too many drugs in your body. The side effects could be worse in the long-run than the discomfort you're feeling.
  • Flomax. After the stone passes into the bladder, you're on easy street. There's a slight pain in actually passing it, but nothing compared to the trip from the kidney. That's where the drug Flomax comes in. It relaxes your ureter and urethra, which makes it easier to pass. For women, this part is a lot easier because their urethra is shorter than the males.
  • Heating pad. When the stone is in the ureter, heat makes it feel better. So turn up the heat and lay like a lizard.
  • Jump up, land hard. This could knock the stone loose. In between your sessions of lying in the fedal position, do this a couple times to knock the stone loose in the ureter. Best way to do this is squat down, jump up, and land straight-legged a few times.
  • Drink a beer! I was most excited about this piece of advice from my urologist. Think about it: Beer stimulates the bladder, and lubricates the urinary system. Plus, it can help dull any pain you might be in. Do not drink while on pain meds. However, as a beer drinker, this excited me. If you're not a beer drinker because it's disgusting to you, try drinking craft beers (Sam Adams, Fat Tire, Goose Island, etc.) that are much more flavorful compared to cheaper domestic beers.
Combating stones
  • I've heard vinegar helps a lot. The kidney stone field is surprisingly vague on exact "cures", so it's all trial and error. Add vinegar to your fries or other foods, even drinks if it doesn't change the taste. From what I've gathered, it should help break down the stones making them easier to move through your body.
  • Cranberry juice. Totally works for me. I had a big stone problem once and drank a lot of cranberry juice for three days straight. Eventually, it came out in two pieces instead of one. From what I've read on it, it's because of the acidic level. It may not taste great, but it's a solid treatment in my book.
  • Less salt. Salt is the enemy, so if you visit fast-food joints ask for your fries without salt. They'll come out fresh anyways and it actually tastes a lot better. Also, avoid microwave foods. If you get the chance, look at the nutrition facts on a lot of the snacks you eat, and if the sodium level is above 200mg per serving, avoid it at all costs.
  • Watch your calcium intake. Some stones are Calcium Oxalate, and are caused by too much calcium. However, my urologist has advised against cutting back because he fears of bone deterioration.
General Advice
  • Always have pain meds on hand. The stone could flare up at any moment, and you want to be able to conquer the pain. Be careful. These can be highly addictive, and I have had my own minor addictive periods. Take solely when needed.
  • Don't be afraid of blood. You'll notice blood in your urine, probably a lot at times. Don't be afraid, but if your urine is starting to look a lot like plain blood and no fluids, go to the doctor or drink a large amount of water. Which brings me to my next point.
  • Drink water. Lots of it. The recommended amount is 8 cups a day. Drink 12. Water is the key and a lot of people don't understand the power it has.
  • I'd say drop soda. My urologist informed me that there's a connection, but a vague one. However, there have been arguments against this, saying that the connection is minuscule. In my opinion, it can't hurt to be extra careful.
  • Be prepared to go to the ER. A lot of lab work will be done. CT scans, X-Rays, blood-work, and it's best to find out if there are labs your insurance will cover, if you're from the US. If not, then just go to the ER when in overwhelming pain and get some help for free.
  • Keep up hope. Totally unproven, but I've found a positive attitude masks the pain and helps avoid any sort of depression that might come with the circumstance.
Added Advice
  • Sleeping it off is a great way to deter the pain, which is what hydrocodone does in your system. While it dulls the pain, it lulls the pained.
  • Exercise is always a good thing. Running will do the best because it may make the stone jump around because of the impact of foot to ground. However, this may cause it the scratch inside your system and create bleeding. Just drink plenty of water and you should be fine.

  • If a stone is 5mm and below in size, it's passable by the average person. However, and your urologist should tell you this, if it shows up to be 6+mm, you need to consider Lithotripsy. It's painless, but it is an outpatient procedure.
  • There are different kinds of kidney stones. Mine have been calcium-oxalate, but everybody has different symptoms and types of stones.
Remember, rule of thumb is that if you have one stone, there's a 25% chance of having a second.
If you have a second, there's a 50% chance you'll have a third.
If you have a third, there's a 75% chance you'll have a fourth.
If you have a fourth, welcome to the Kidney Stone Club.
Basically, catch it early and resolve it. Life will be better to you in this aspect.

1 comment:

  1. "...dulls the pain, lulls the pained." I'm going to work this into every conversation for the rest of my day.