Treatment for kidney stones varies, depending on the type of stone and the cause. Some stones will pass on their own by having the patient drink plenty of water and stay physically active. Stones that can't be treated conservatively, (because of bleeding, kidney damage or infection), may need professional treatment. Procedures include:
» Shock wave lithotripsy (SWL). This treatment uses shock waves to break the stones into tiny pieces that are then passed.
» Percutaneous nephrolithotomy. When SWL isn't effective, or the stone is very large, the urologist may remove the kidney stone through a small incision in the back using an instrument called a "nephroscope."
» Ureteroscopic stone removal. This procedure may be used to remove a stone lodged in a ureter. The stone is grabbed with a small instrument (ureteroscope) that's passed into the ureter through your bladder.
Kidney stones can often be prevented by having the patient make a few lifestyle changes. If these measures aren't effective and blood and urine tests reveal a correctable chemical imbalance, the doctor may prescribe certain medications.
» Drink about 3.5 quarts (14 cups) of fluids every day.
» If stones are calcium oxalate, restrict foods rich in oxalates. These include meats, chicken, fish (such as herring and anchovies), asparagus, berries, chocolate, and cooked spinach.
» Restricting intake of calcium doesn't seem to lower your risk. An exception to this rule occurs when an individual absorbs too much dietary calcium from the intestine. In such a circumstance, restricting calcium intake is useful. Calcium supplements seem to have the same protective effect as dietary calcium, but only if they're taken with meals.
Medications (based upon stone type)
» Calcium stones- a thiazide diuretic or a phosphate-containing preparation.
»Uric acid stones- allopurinol (Zyloprim, Aloprim) will reduce uric acid levels in the blood and urine.
» Struvite stones- long-term use of antibiotics in small doses may be useful to prevent recurring infection.
» Cystine stones- these are the hardest stones and the most difficult to treat. Certain medications to alkalinize the urine or to bind the cystine in the urine may help when combined with extremely high urine output.