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Published on June 26, 2017

The lowdown on treating kidney stones

Passing a kidney stone can be a serious pain—literally.

Back painMedicines can reduce the pain or make it easier to pass a kidney stone. And most do pass on their own without too much trouble. But sometimes a stone will get stuck and block urine flow, causing severe side or back pain. When that happens, medical help is needed to break up the stone or surgically remove it.

“We can treat any type of stone a person may have,” says Noah May, DO, a urologist at Mercy Fitzgerald and Mercy Philadelphia Hospitals. “And in most cases you can go home the same day.”

According to Dr. May, there are three main ways to remove troublesome stones:

  1. Shock wave lithotripsy. Sound wave pressure is used to break stones into bits that are easy to pass.
  2. Ureteroscopy. A doctor uses a small scope to locate a stone inside the urinary tract and blast it with a laser. The pieces of stone are then removed.
  3. Percutaneous nephrolithotomy. Large stones are removed through a small incision in the back.

What exactly is a stone?

Kidney stones typically form from minerals (such as calcium oxalate or uric acid) in urine. Not drinking enough fluids or eating a diet rich in animal protein or salt are some things that may increase the risk of developing a stone.

Once you’ve had a stone removed, your doctor can test it to find out what type it is. Then you will know what changes you need to make to your diet to help prevent future stones.

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