SYLACAUGA, Ala. – Pain. Pain. Pain.

That’s probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of kidney stones, right? Even if you have not experienced them first hand.

I never imagined just how bad kidney stones were until I had to deal with them for the first time. I decided to share my story and find out more information about kidney stones, what happens if I get them again and share what I learned with the help of Urologist Dr. Andrew Strang from Urology Centers of Alabama.

My story started a few months ago. It was a normal evening until I woke up in the middle of the night with a slight throbbing pain in the left part of my lower back. I didn’t think much of it, just figured I had slept wrong, and spent the next thirty minutes or so trying to get comfy. The only problem: the throbbing started to get worse the more I tried to find comfort to go back to sleep.

After dealing with the pain for a while, I started to feel the need to urinate. I slowly crawled out of bed and tried to use the bathroom. Nothing happened. I returned to bed still feeling an urge. At this point, I became concerned and just turned to my phone for some preliminary answers. I mean, who was I going call in the middle of the night to ask what I felt were dumb questions about why I couldn’t use the restroom? After searching around, I started to connect the dots. All of my symptoms were pointing in the direction of a kidney stone. I immediately turned my thoughts to those who told me horror stories of dealing with them. The serious amount of pain raced through my mind while the pain I was already feeling in my back was getting worse.

By the time I finally decided to do something, I was laying in the fetal position, curled up in a ball trying to make the pain subside. I slowly got dressed and made my way to the car hunched over writhing in pain with each step I took. It was unbearable. I made my way into my car and drove a few moments to Coosa Valley Medical Center and somewhat walked into the emergency room still lurched over.

A few minutes passed, I was in a room laying on a bed with my mind going six different directions. A nurse and doctor came in and talked to me to find out what was going on but they already knew from the sight of me walking into the emergency room what the problem really was. After a shot, the medicine started to take effect. I finally felt some relief and proceeded to have a CT scan conducted. As the doctor returned, my fears came true. He said I had a 2.5mm kidney stone that was just about to pass through my bladder. I was sent home from the hospital with some medicine and was basically told I had to pass them.

Oh what fun.

It passed. And yes, the pain was terrible.

I wanted to know more since I experienced this horrific pain. There were plenty of questions I had and alot of rumors I heard from numerous people. I wanted to set the record straight. I contacted Dr. Andrew Strang to help me understand kindey stones and shine some light on the many questions I had.

DH: Where do kidkey stones come from and why do the form?

Dr. Strang: Its a process of crystalization. Your urine gets super saturated with calcium and oxalate. 80% -90% of stones are calcium oxalate. The main risk factor is dehydration. When your urine gets super concentrated, you start forming these crystals and like a snowball. Over time, the crystals compound and grow in size with repeated issues of dehydration. Then low and behold: you have a kidney stone.

DH: Are there any other contributing factors that can progress kidney stones?

Dr. Strang: Anything that contains oxalate. Tea, green leafy, peanuts or any kind of nuts. There are dietary things to be aware of. Some people think lowering your calcium intake and you should absolutely not do that. Dairy is fine and a calcium supplement can help prevent kidney stones. So, you don’t want to limit dairy but you do want to limit oxalate containing foods.

DH: Rumors say that the calcium in the ground leaks into the groundwater and can cause an issue. Is that true?

Dr. Strang: It can. But I wouldn’t worry about the ground water as a source. I mean, we live in the “kindey stone belt” and it’s not just Sylacauga — it’s the entire southeast and that has to deal with a number of enviromental and metabolic issues. Diabeties and hypertension are also prevelant in the south so I wouldnt worry about the ground water as a factor. It’s easy to get dehydrated in summer in Alabama so the dehydration factor makes for many issues with kidney stones being top on that list.

DH: Is there something that causes the stones to come out of the kidney?

Dr. Strang: People don’t usually know they have a stone. They can’t feel them in the kidney so once they drop out of the kidney is when they feel it as it blocks the flow of urine. Some people don’t have a problem passing stones. They have a high tolerance for pain and some people can’t. There is also the microarchitecture of the stone — some are smooth and round and some have microspires or spikes.

DH: What are some of the symptoms of kidney stones?

Dr. Strang: Classic symptoms: unilateral flank pank — meaning one side or the other accompanied sometimes by nausea or vomiting and unrelenting pain. Accute writhing pain is just a classic stymptom.

DH: Once someone gets a kidney stone, what are the chances they get more?

Dr. Strang: Statistically once you have your first stone you have a 50% chance of another stone in five years.

DH: What types of treatment options does someone have to prevent or take care of a stone before it becomes a problem?

Dr. Strang: It depends on the size and locations of the stone. For those that have a stone high up by the kidney, we treat those with lithotripsy which is shockwave treatment. If they have realtively big stone we can go right into the kidney with a scope and get it out that way too which is also an option. Stones that are further down towards the bladder we treat with whats called ureteroscopy. We go in the urethra, through the bladder and then lazer the stone and then take it out with a basket.

DH: Are there any other preventive measures one can take to check for stones?

Dr. Strang: There is a test that we can do — It’s a 24-hour test and we can qualtilate or measure the amount of oxalate your spilling into your urine and calcium. For people who have stones many times a year, there is preventative medicine.

Hopefully my story and the great information from Dr. Strang can help you or someone you know who is dealing with kidney stones. You can find out more about prevention and treatment by visiting your primary care physician or visit Urology Centers of Alabama.

Dustin Harmer for | © 2017, City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.


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