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What is my best defense against kidney stones, and how do I know if I have get one?

Your kidneys remove waste products from the blood and transfer them into urine so your body can dispose of them. Certain minerals in the urine combine with other waste products and start to form a stone. Kidney stones can form at any age, but they usually appear in middle age.

Signs of a kidney stone are sharp, extreme pain in your back, side or lower belly that will not go away; fever and chills; nausea and vomiting; burning pain when you urinate; blood in your urine, making it look pink, red or brown; constant need to empty your bladder; and difficulty urinating

A stone may be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a pearl and most pass out of the body without help from a doctor. However, some stones are a challenge. Over 1 million Americans visit the emergency department with kidney stone pain each year. Your doctor will diagnose a kidney stone with urine, blood, and imaging tests.

Sometimes a stone will not go away. It may get stuck in the urinary tract, block the flow of urine and cause significant pain. That’s when a physician can help.

If you have a stone that won’t pass on its own, you may need treatment, which is determined by the make-up, size and location of your stone. Often times, your urologist can treat stones with shock waves, a nonsurgical treatment called lithotripsy. Alternative treatments are achieved through a scope or surgery.

The best defense against developing a kidney stone is to drink plenty of water (most people need eight glasses per day). If you have had a kidney stone, you are at an increased risk for another so a visit with the dietitian for counseling can be worthwhile.

—Dr. Phillip Brackin.
Dr. Brackin is a board certified urologist at Urology Care Alliance in Hamilton.

This content is intended to encourage a healthy lifestyle. For medical advice and treatment, see a physician. Concerned about your health? Send your questions to askthedoc@rwjbh.org.