What are Ureteral Stones?
The urinary system is formed by the kidneys, ureters, the bladder, and the urethra. Ureteral stones are a condition in which stones – hard crystal deposits – form in the upper urinary system as a result of an excess concentration of minerals and salts in the urine – and become stuck in one or both ureters, the tubes that carry the urine from the kidneys to the bladder.
Ureteral Stones Signs and Symptoms
Most urinary stones are tiny and cause no symptoms while passing through the urinary system. However, in some other cases, the stones may become bigger and block the urinary system, frequently at the ureters, causing some of the following symptoms:
- Acute, severe and intermittent pain under the back part of the lower ribs, which often radiates to the lower abdomen and groin
- Presence of blood in the urine
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fever in case of an infection
Ureteral Stones Common Causes
There are multiple causes of urinary tract stones. Usually, those stones are formed after the urine becomes too concentrated, allowing the minerals and salts -including substances like calcium, oxalate and uric acid- to crystallize, forming tiny stones that can become bigger over time.
There are some well-known risk factors related to the development of urinary stones, including:
- Family or personal history
- Digestive diseases
- Weight loss surgery (such as Gastric Sleeve surgery)
- Constant dehydration
- Taking too many proteins, sugar and salt in your food
Ureteral Stones Diagnosis
In case you show any of the typical symptoms related to ureteral stones, your doctor will perform a physical exam and fully finish your medical history, as a primary step for a proper diagnosis. Additionally, your doctor might order the following test to confirm your condition, including:
- Urinary test. Looking after the substances that form stones.
- Blood test. In order to measure the calcium and uric acid levels in your blood.
- Imaging tests, as a way to identify the stones and its exact location. The most commonly used techniques include ultrasound and CT scan, which not only help identifying the stones but also any probable complication resulting from them.
Ureteral Stones Treatment
The treatment of ureteral stones depends on factors like the size and the location of the stone, the substance from which is it formed and your medical history. Some of the treatment options include the following:
Non-Invasive Treatment Options
In case your ureteral stone is small, you might be able to pass it by using medical treatment, including:
- Increasing your urinary frequency by drinking plenty of water
- Muscle relaxers, a medication group known as alpha-blockers, which include tamsulosin. These medications relax the muscle in your ureter, helping the stone pass by
- Pain relievers to help you with the pain and discomfort
Invasive Treatment Options
In case you have a larger ureteral stone or if the medical treatment didn’t work for you, your doctor might suggest you a more invasive treatment option, including:
- Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy. This procedure uses focused and strong vibrations called shock waves to break the stones from the inside without making any incision. Then, the remaining tiny pieces of stones will pass through your urinary tract during urination.
- Ureteroscopy. In case you stone has an accessible location, your doctor might recommend a ureteroscopy, which involves passing a thin tube attached with a camera- ureteroscope- through your urethra and bladder to get to your ureter and remove the stone.
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