- Written by Samantha Bowick, MPH Samantha Bowick, MPH
Kidney stones are hard mineral deposits that form in the kidneys. They are foreign to the body and can cause issues no matter their size or your age.
Kidney stones are usually 2-5 mm but vary in size and can cause horrible pain. About 1 in 10 people will suffer with a kidney stone sometime in their life.
There are different types of kidney stones, which can make it difficult to know what to do to decrease your risk. If you’ve ever had a kidney stone, your chances of having another one increase.
Here are some important tips that can help you determine your next steps if you suffer with kidney stones or want to decrease your risk of ever getting one:
- Stay hydrated. Drinking as much water as possible keeps your body hydrated and toxins moving out of your body. The American Urological Association recommends people who form kidney stones drink at least 2.5 liters of water every day.
- Urinate when you have to go, rather than holding it. Not urinating when you need to holds the toxins in your body longer than they should be there.
If the nerves in the bladder aren’t functioning properly, urine can leak out of the bladder and back into the kidneys, causing blood and bacteria to go back in with it.
- If you’ve had a kidney stone before and it’s been tested, you can change your diet to decrease the possibility of forming another stone.
For example: In 2019, I had lithotripsy, a medical procedure that uses shock waves or a laser to break down stones, and my kidney stone was tested. I had a calcium oxalate kidney stone.
I have changed my diet to avoid foods high in oxalate, like almonds and kiwi, to try to decrease my risk of having another kidney stone.
- You can also talk to your doctor about possible supplements that may help your urinary system function at optimal level.
It’s important that we advocate for ourselves or have a loved one with us at doctor appointments who can do so.
Doctor appointments can be overwhelming, and it’s important we do what we can to decrease that stress as much as possible and receive the answers we need.
Here are some ways you or your loved one can navigate the healthcare system by advocating for your health:
- Write down any questions you or your loved one has for your doctor. No question is ridiculous. Your doctor is there for you and should answer any question you have. Examples of questions for your doctor are:
- What is causing my pain?
- Can you test my urine to see if I have an infection or order a CT scan to see if I have a kidney stone?
- Can you refer me to a urologist?
- What are ways we can remove my kidney stone if it won’t move on its own?
- Keep track of all of your symptoms and when they occur. This information can be crucial in your care as it can give your doctor a better picture of what’s going on.
- Ask your family members for their medical history. Because kidney stones can run in families, knowing if they run in yours can be helpful information.
- Do as much research as possible before and after your doctor appointment. It is important to know what treatment options are available for kidney stone management and to be prepared for your doctor appointment so you aren’t pressured into doing anything you don’t feel comfortable with.
- Call your insurance company to find out which services are covered and which aren’t. Navigating insurance companies can be difficult, and it’s important to know what they cover so you don’t receive an unexpected bill in the mail or you’re not expected to pay a large sum of money at the time of service.
Having kidney stones is a painful experience that nobody ever wants to go through again. With the steps above, you can decrease your chances of having a kidney stone and advocate for yourself while navigating the healthcare system.
Samantha Bowick, MPH, is an author and patient advocate. She is the author of four books, including Living with Kidney Stones: The Complete Guide to Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Treatment Options. Bowick founded Chronic Illness Support, LLC, which aims to advocate, provide education, and increase awareness for chronic illnesses.