Kidney Stones: Why me? – From a Patient’s Perspective

A healthy lifestyle:

In some ways I’m a typical kidney stone former, but in other respects, I suppose I’m not.  I’m a female in my early sixties who lives in a very hot and dry climate.  I work full-time.  I’ve been a teacher for most of my adult life, and I take pride in being able to “keep up” with my energetic students.  Outside of the classroom, I enjoy being outdoors. I love short hikes and walks with my husband and dogs, and working in my vegetable and flower gardens.

I’ve always considered myself to be pretty healthy and active. Back in high school and college I was a decent athlete.  I eat a mostly carefully considered diet that’s low in fat and red meat and includes considerable quantities of locally grown veggies and a variety of fruits.  I suspect I don’t drink enough water, though I honestly do try. During the school year I admit to limiting fluid consumption in order to reduce trips to the bathroom. I get a moderate amount of exercise (mostly walking and working in the garden), but I don’t actually “work out.” I’m heavier than I’d like to be, but certainly not obese.

The start of stone symptoms:

About three years ago, during a routine check-up with my primary care doctor, blood was discovered in my urine.  I’d also been experiencing occasional intense waves of mid-back pain that would cause me to pull to the side of the road if I was driving or clench my teeth and grip the shopping cart handle if I was caught in the grocery store.  The pain was usually accompanied by sweating and nausea.  But then it would subside, and all would return to normal.  I knew if I endured it for two or three minutes, the episode would be over, and I could return to whatever I’d been doing.

Stones and more:

My primary care doc referred me to a urologist, who ordered several tests, including x-rays, a CT scan and eventually a nuclear medicine test to show how well my kidneys emptied urine into the ureters and eventually into my bladder.  A few things became apparent.  First, there was a kidney stone, slightly larger than 1 cm, in the left kidney and another smaller stone in the right kidney.  Additionally, there was evidence of an obstruction partially blocking the flow of urine from the right kidney.  I was referred to a specialist in both kidney stone eradication and minimally invasive kidney surgery, and we made a plan to tackle my problems.

I must admit I was quite surprised to learn I had kidney stones, and even more shocked to see images showing the bulging (hydronephrosis) at the junction of my kidney and ureter.  I had officially joined the ranks of those afflicted with kidney stones, with an added bonus of ureteropelvic junction obstruction.  Even though I thought I was living a healthy life style, I was, nevertheless, accumulating solid bits and chunks of minerals in my urinary system.

Why me?

I suspect there were some factors that might have logically led to the stone formation.  Because I live in an extremely hot and dry climate and I was not drinking enough water during a typical day, it does make sense that I could wind up with kidney stones.  I’ve read that kidney stones are almost equally common in both males and females, so my gender (and my age, diet, and activity level, for that matter) were not enough to protect me.

Editors note: Bonnie will be writing additional posts on her experiences as a kidney stone patient. If you have experiences as a patient you would like to share, feel free to add a comment or send her an email at: ask@kidneystoners.org

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