Kidney Stone Season in Full Swing
TUPELO, Miss.—The South has several well-known and distinct seasons—deer, turkey, dove and quail season, just to name a few.
One lesser known season, affectionately known by physicians as “kidney stone season,” begins in late April and continues through October.
Kidney stones typically form during these hot, sweaty months because people tend to get relatively dehydrated without realizing it. “When we get dehydrated, the urine made in the kidneys gets concentrated and can lead to the formation of tiny urinary crystals,” explains Jonathan Kalish, M.D., a board-certified urologist with Urology Associates in Tupelo. “These crystals are the earliest stages of the ultimate stone that is formed.”
In addition to dehydration, people in the South tend to rehydrate with the wrong beverages. “We love our tea—sweetened or unsweetened, caffeinated or decaffeinated—it just doesn’t matter,” Dr. Kalish says. “Unfortunately, tea has a lot of minerals called oxalates that just love to help us turn those tiny little crystals into full-fledged kidney stones.”
Despite popular belief, Dr Kalish says, kidney stones themselves don’t typically cause any pain. “I always tell my patients that their kidneys are just the ‘factory’ that produces their urine. Their bladder, on the other hand, is the ‘warehouse’ where the urine is stored before urination. The highway that connects the kidney to the bladder is called the ureter. And, the horrible pain that we associate with kidney stones actually comes from obstruction when the stone travels down that long highway from the kidney to the bladder.” To make matters worse, obstruction of the ureter is often associated with nausea and vomiting, which only compounds the problem.
Dr. Kalish says that most patients describe their pain as severe and end up in the emergency room. A CT scan is then often ordered, which can help determine the size of the stone, the degree of obstruction that it is causing, and how far down the ureter it has progressed. “These factors help to determine whether or not the stone is likely to pass on its own,” Dr. Kalish says. If it is, certain medications are given to help the stone pass, as well as to help the patient cope with the pain, nausea and vomiting.”
Unfortunately, not all patients are able to tolerate their symptoms, and some stones are simply too large to pass. Urologists like Dr. Kalish are specially trained and equipped to come to the rescue. “We have miniaturized telescopes, lasers and high tech machines known as ‘lithotripters’ to help break up those evil stones and allow for faster recovery,” he says. Most of these procedures are done in outpatient surgery, thus eliminating the need for an overnight hospital stay.
Patients do not need to have a referral to see a urologist. Same day appointments and treatment are often available. Call 1-800-THE DESK (1-800-843-3375) for more information.