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Dr. Campbell discusses kidney stones

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

The number of people in the United States with kidney stones has been increasing over the past 30 years.

Each year, more than half a million people go to emergency rooms for kidney stone problems. It's believed that one in ten people will have a kidney stone at some point in their lives.

In the late 1970s, less than 4 percent of the population had had kidney stones and by the early 1990s more than 5 percent.

The peak age for kidney stones is between 20and 50 years old. Those who have developed a stone are at approximately 50 percent risk for developing another within five to seven years.

What are kidney stones?

Kidney stones are small "pebbles" of salt and mineral in the urine. The most common symptom is severe pain. Most stones pass on their own, but medical procedures are used to remove some kidney stones.

Kidney stones have many causes and can affect any part of your urinary tract — from your kidneys to your bladder. Stones often form when the urine becomes concentrated—such as when you become dehydrated, allowing minerals to crystallize and stick together.

Signs and symptoms

  • Severe pain in the side and back, below the ribs
  • Pain that spreads to the lower abdomen and groin
  • Pain that comes in waves and fluctuates in intensity
  • Have pain while urinating
  • See blood in your urine

Different types of kidney stones?

Doctors have found four main types of kidney stones, with the most common types of stones containing calcium. Calcium is a normal part of a healthy diet. Calcium that is not used by the bones and muscles goes to the kidneys. In most people, the kidneys flush out the extra calcium with the rest of the urine. People who have calcium stones keep the calcium in their kidneys. The calcium that stays behind joins with other waste products to form a stone.

People can have calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate stones. Calcium oxalate stones are more common.

Treatment and prevention

The treatment for kidney stones usually depends on their size and what they are made of. Kidney stones may be treated by your regular doctor or by an urologist—a doctor who specializes in the urinary tract. You may need treatment if you have symptoms or if a kidney stone is blocking your urinary tract.

Small stones don't usually need treatment. Still, you may need pain medicine. You should also drink lots of fluids to help move the stone along. If you are vomiting often or don't drink enough fluids, you may need to go to the hospital and get fluids through a needle in your arm.

If you have a large kidney stone or your urinary tract is blocked, the urologist can remove the stone or break it into small pieces with the following treatments:

Shock wave lithotripsy: The urologist can use a shock wave machine to crush the kidney stone. The shock waves go from the machine to your body. The smaller pieces of the stone then pass through your urinary tract.

Ureteroscopy: The urologist uses a long, tube-like tool with an eyepiece, called a ureteroscope, to find the stone. The tool is fed into the urethra and through the bladder to the ureter. Once the stone is found, the urologist can remove it or can break it into smaller pieces with laser energy.

You can help prevent kidney stones by making changes to how much you consume of the following:

  • fluids
  • sodium
  • animal protein
  • calcium
  • oxalate

Drinking enough fluids each day is the best way to help prevent most types of kidney stones. You should drink 2 to 3 liters of fluid a day.

To get in touch with Dr. Campbell, you can head to his website, Facebook page or message him on Twitter.

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