While kidney stones can definitely make life less enjoyable for a number of reasons, a positive bit of information to keep in mind (if there is one) is that there are plenty of different treatment options. The one(s) most beneficial to you will likely depend on what type of kidney stones you have in addition to how bad (and how large) they are.
Options by kidney stone type
Because each type of kidney stone is composed of different minerals, it only makes sense that each one would respond differently to the various treatment options. For instance, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases indicates that certain medications work better for treating and preventing further stone-related issues based on which type of stone exists. More specifically:
- If you have calcium stones, you’ll most likely be prescribed potassium citrate and/or diuretics (water pills) to help resolve them.
- If you tend to suffer from uric acid stones, you can expect a potassium citrate script or allopurinol.
- Struvite stones are often treated (and hopefully further prevented) by taking an antibiotic or acetohydroxamic acid, the latter of which is essentially a really strong antibiotic.
- Cystine stones generally call for either potassium citrate or mercaptopropionyl glycine.
This is why knowing which type of stone you have is so important to choosing the best treatment method.
Options by severity
When searching for treatment options, it’s also important to consider the severity of your stone-related issue.
For example, if your stone is small, you may not even need to seek outside medical treatment. That’s because most smaller stones will pass on their own simply by increasing water intake to help soothe it out. This process can take up to six weeks and, in some cases, medications can help speed up the process by relaxing the tube that connects the kidney and bladder (called the ureter). You may also want to take something to help with pain and/or nausea, if you experience either of these symptoms.
If the stone is too big, is blocking the ureter, or is somehow negatively affecting your kidney function, then your treatment options will likely become medical in nature. Shock wave lithotripsy is the least invasive alternative, as the doctor simply uses ultrasound waves to break the stone down into smaller pieces that your body can subsequently pass on its own.
If this doesn’t work or if there are other issues, the doctor may have to perform a ureteroscopy under general anesthesia. This outpatient surgery involves inserting a small telescope into the urethra, up through the bladder, and into the ureter, ultimately locating the stone and removing it. If the stone is too large to take out this way, it can also be broken down so it’s reduced to smaller pieces.
The third option is used most often with stones that are larger in nature and involves the surgeon making a half-inch incision in your back or on your side. A telescope (called a nephroscope) is inserted through the cut, allowing the stone to be located. Another instrument is then inserted through the telescope to break the stone into smaller pieces and suction them out. Because this option is more invasive and generally involves leaving a tube in to drain urine from the kidney, an overnight stay in a hospital is generally required.
Natural treatment remedies
If you prefer more natural kidney stone treatment remedies, some people have found relief by adding cranberry juice, lemon juice, basil juice, wheatgrass juice, or apple cider vinegar to their diet. Others swear by the positive effects of celery juice, pomegranate juice, and bone broth for improved kidney function (and fewer stones!).
While not all of these natural remedies have scientific research to back them up, that doesn’t mean that they don’t work. It just means that there is no actual data to substantiate their claims.