Kidney stones, or hard deposits that form from minerals and salts inside your kidneys, are common and on the rise: Approximately 11% of men and 6% of women in the United States experience kidney stones at some point during their lives. Although passing a larger kidney stone can be quite painful, they don’t usually cause lasting damage with proper treatment. From his innovative practice in Arcadia, California, board-certified urologist Dr. Alan Yamada provides comprehensive care for patients with kidney stones. If you’re in the San Gabriel Valley or surrounding Los Angeles County area, call Foothill Urogenital Health to request your appointment today.
Your urine contains a wide variety of dissolved minerals and salts. When you have high levels of these substances in your urine, they can form into hard deposits, or stones.
As their name implies, kidney stones are made by your kidneys. They start off very small, but can grow larger over time. Although kidney stones may stay in your kidneys and go undetected for years, some stones travel down the ureter, or the tubes that connect each of your kidneys with your bladder.
Stones that reach your bladder may be passed through your urine, while stones that become lodged in your ureter can block the flow of urine and cause a great amount of discomfort.
While there’s no single underlying cause of kidney stones, certain factors can increase your risk of developing one.
Men are more likely to have kidney stones, as are those with a family history of the problem. You’re also more likely to develop recurrent kidney stones after you’ve had them once. Being very overweight or not including enough fluids in your diet increases your risk, too.
Other factors that are associated with the development of kidney stones include:
Usually, a kidney stone doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms unless it’s especially large, moves around inside your kidney, or travels into your ureter or bladder. When any of these occur, you may have:
Because kidney stones can travel, the pain they cause can shift to a different location as they migrate through your urinary tract.
If you have a smaller stone that doesn’t cause too much discomfort, you may be able to simply wait for it to pass on its own — as long as there are no signs of blockage or infection.
If you’re waiting for a stone to pass, Dr. Yamada may also recommend you take tamsulosin, a medication that makes the process easier.
Shock wave lithotripsy, an in-office procedure that uses repeated waves of ultrasound energy to break large stones into tiny pieces, is a common first-line treatment approach for stones that fail to pass, cause a significant amount of pain, or are affecting kidney function.
Dr. Yamada can also treat kidney stones through a scope inserted into your ureter, or surgically.