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A kidney stone may not be as big as the stones in your garden, but can be quite a pain. Kidney stones are actually mineral crystals that are usually a combination of calcium and phosphates. The size of a kidney stone ranges from the size of a sugar crystal to a ping pong ball. While some kidney stones pass out of the body along with urine, others can block the urethra and become painful.
In addition to being painful, a kidney stone can cause permanent damage to your kidneys. Since large kidney stones are usually painful, they rarely go undiagnosed. However, if a kidney stone is left untreated, it could cause the kidney to atrophy and lower the functionality of the kidney. Kidney stones that are related to an infection can also lead to chronic urinary tract infections and damage the kidney through scarring and inflammation. This could eventually lead to kidney failure.
Not all kidney stones need to be treated with surgery. If the kidney stone is very small, your doctor may prescribe plenty of water and medication to treat the pain. With plenty of water, you should be able to pass the stone in your urine. Ideally, you should take plenty of rest until the stone is passed.
Larger kidney stones may need you to be hospitalized for treatment. These are:
- Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL): To begin this of treatment, a painkiller is administered. Ultrasonic waves are used to determine the location of the kidney stone. Shock waves are then passed through the kidney stone to break it into smaller pieces, which can then pass out of the body through urine.
- Ureteroscopy: This is also called retrograde intrarenal surgery and is performed when the kidney stone is stuck in the ureter. A ureteroscope is passed through the urethra and bladder into the ureter. Laser energy may then be used to break the stone into smaller pieces to unblock the ureter.
- Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL): This surgery is performed under general anesthesia. It involves a small incision being made in the back and a nephroscope passed into the kidney through it. Laser or pneumatic energy is then used to break up the stone into smaller pieces and pull them out.
- Open surgery: Open surgery is performed only in the case of an abnormally large stone or abnormal anatomy of the person. An incision is made in the back that allows the doctor to access the kidney and manually remove the stone.