Kidney stones are a common problem with an estimated one in ten people having a kidney stone at some point in their lives. This is often a painful experience and over half a million people go to the emergency room for kidney stone problems every year. We understand how stressful, alarming, and painful passing a kidney stone can be. Proper treatment of kidney stones begins with a better understanding of the problem, so let’s examine the common causes of kidney stones, the ways they can be passed, and the treatment options available.
Common Causes of Kidney Stones
One of the most common causes of kidney stones is dehydration. Water is vital for healthy kidney function and helps deliver essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients throughout the body. If you’re dehydrated, those minerals accumulate in your kidneys and can harden and develop into kidney stones.
Other dietary habits can also increase the risk of kidney stones. High salt and sodium intake increases the amount of calcium in the urine which will increase the risk of developing kidney stones. Likewise, high levels of sugar consumption can also promote the development of stones. Following a kidney-friendly diet can help reduce your risk of kidney stones.
Being overweight or obese can also increase the risk of kidney stones. Studies have shown a link between weight gain and developing kidney stones and other urinary risks. Certain weight loss treatments, such as gastric bypass surgery, have also been linked to an increased risk of kidney stones, so it’s important to keep that risk in mind when exploring weight loss options.
How are Kidney Stones Passed?
Smaller kidney stones can usually be passed naturally without any special treatments or procedures. Stones vary in size and are usually between the size of a grain of salt and the size of a kernel of corn. You may not even notice you have a smaller stone until it starts moving from the kidney to the bladder. These smaller stones can be passed at home by drinking plenty of water to break down the minerals and using ibuprofen or naproxen to manage any pain.
Additional treatments and procedures are necessary in the case of larger stones that can’t be passed at home or stones that are blocking the ureter. In these cases, some type of surgery will be performed. There are several surgical options for treating kidney stones, but which one your doctor recommends largely depends on the size and location of the stone.
One of the most common types of surgery options is Shock Wave Lithotripsy (SWL). This non-invasive procedure is most often used for smaller or medium-sized stones. The surgery uses high-energy sound waves to break stones up into smaller pieces to make them easier to pass. The procedure has a short recovery time and patients can leave the hospital shortly after surgery is completed.
Do Muscle Relaxers Help Pass Kidney Stones?
In some cases, muscle relaxers can help pass kidney stones. Your doctor may prescribe alpha-blockers or other muscle relaxers to help relax the ureteral muscles, reduce pain, and promote stone passage. Muscle relaxers can widen the ureter, which makes passing small stones easier. Contractions in the ureter, which are a common cause of pain, can sometimes be reduced through muscle relaxers or other medications.
There are limitations to muscle relaxers’ effectiveness for kidney stones, however. Muscle relaxers will not be helpful for stones that are too large to pass anyway. Only your doctor can determine if muscle relaxers are a viable treatment option for your kidney stone diagnosis, so always consult with your doctor before beginning any kind of treatment.
Do You Think You Have a Kidney Stone?
If you think you have a kidney stone, don’t wait to see a nephrologist. Early detection and treatment can reduce the chances that you experience more severe levels of pain from the kidney stone. Without seeing a nephrologist, it will be hard for you to determine whether you have a kidney stone, much less whether it can be passed with a muscle relaxer. Always consult with a medical professional before beginning any treatment.
Milwaukee Nephrologists Are Here to Help
At Milwaukee Nephrologists, our specialists can help diagnose kidney stones and formulate the best treatment plan for your situation. Our staff will work to: