If you experience severe pain in your back, side, lower abdomen, or groin, or have blood in your urine, you may have a kidney stone – a condition that is common and on the rise. If left untreated, kidney stones can cause severe complications in addition to severe pain.

Kidney stones are hard, pebble-like pieces of material that form in one or both kidneys when there are high levels of certain minerals in your urine. Kidney stones vary in size and shape – as small as a grain of sand or as big as a pea and rarely as big as golf balls.

A small kidney stone can get through your urinary tract on its own and cause little or no pain or other symptoms. A larger kidney stone can get stuck along the way and block the flow of urine. If left untreated, kidney stones can cause blood in the urine; strong pain; Urinary tract infections (UTIs), including kidney infections; and loss of kidney function.

“Kidney stones can be extremely painful, but we have methods to relieve the pain and get rid of the stones,” said Dr. Caleb Bozeman. “Don’t delay the maintenance. We can help.”

The National Kidney Foundation reports that over half a million people go to the emergency room for kidney stone problems each year. And it is estimated that one in ten people will have a kidney stone at some point in their life.

If you have a family history of kidney stones, the more likely you will develop them. You are also more likely to develop kidney stones if you’ve had them, have high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, or if you are drinking too little.

“To diagnose kidney stones, we use the patient’s medical history, physical exam, and tests, which can also reveal problems that led to the formation of a kidney stone,” Bozeman said. “Treatment usually depends on the size, location, and composition of the kidney stones. Patients may be able to prevent kidney stones by drinking enough water, changing their diet or taking medication. “

Four diet tips from the National Kidney Foundation can help prevent painful kidney stones.

1. Drink plenty of fluids when you exercise and sweat. The loss of sweat water leads to less urine production, which allows stone-causing minerals to settle and bind in the kidneys and urinary tract.

2. Eat and drink foods rich in calcium and oxalate together during a meal to increase the likelihood that they will bind together in the stomach and intestines before the kidneys start processing them. High levels of oxalate are found in peanuts, rhubarb, spinach, beets, chocolate and sweet potatoes.

3. Maintain your calcium intake but reduce sodium. A diet low in calcium increases the risk of developing kidney stones.

4. Eat more fruits and vegetables and less animal protein to reduce the acidity of the urine, which can reduce the likelihood of stone formation.

If you suspect you may have a kidney stone, contact a urologist or your family doctor today.

Caleb Bozeman, MD, is a urologist at the Arkansas Urology El Dorado Clinic. He can be reached at 870-862-5439.