Kidney stones are pieces of a stone or crystal-like material. These stones form inside the kidneys or other parts of the urinary tract. The kidneys remove waste from the body. They also balance the water and electrolyte content in the blood by filtering salt and water.
There are several types of kidney stones:
The cause of your kidney stone may be depend on the type of stone that you have. Calcium stones are the most common type.
Caucasian men under 50 years old are at increased risk.
Factors that may increase your chance of kidney stones include:
Other factors that increase your risk of kidney stones include:
Calcium oxalate or phosphorus stones:
Uric acid stones:
A rare genetic disorder increases the risk of cystine stones.
In many people, kidney stones do not cause symptoms and pass during urination. Other people may have symptoms, including:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Images may be taken of your kidneys and urinary system. This can be done with:
Treatment depends on the size and location of the kidney stone. Treatment may include one or more of the following:
For small kidney stones, drinking at least 2-3 quarts of water per day helps the body pass the stones during urination. You may be given a special cup to catch the stone when it passes so it can be analyzed. If you are having a hard time keeping fluids down, you may need to be hospitalized to receive IV fluids.
You may be advised to take pain medication. You may also be prescribed medications that may help you pass your kidney stones during urination.
Surgery may be needed if the stones are:
Ureteroscopy uses a small camera to locate the stones in the ureter or kidney. Once found, a small basket is used to capture and remove the stones. Larger stones can be broken up into small pieces with a laser.
Percutaneous nephrolithotomy is used to treat large stones located in the kidney. A small incision is made in the lower back. A nephroscope is passed through a tube so the kidney stones can be seen. The stones are broken into smaller pieces and removed. A temporary drain may be left in the incision site.
ESWL uses a device called a lithotripter that is applied to the skin. The lithotripter sends shock waves into the body. The impact of the shock waves breaks up the larger stones so they can be passed during urination.
Once you have formed a kidney stone, you are more likely to form another. Here are some steps to prevent this condition:
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Urology Care Foundation
The Kidney Foundation of Canada
Borghi L, Meschi T, et al. Dietary therapy in idiopathic nephrolithiasis. Nutr Rev. 2006;64:301-312.
Coe FL, Evan A, et al. Kidney stone disease. J Clin Invest. 2005;115:2598-2608.
Delvecchio FC, Preminger GM. Medical management of stone disease. Curr Opin Urol. 2003;13(3):229-233.
Kang DE, Sur RL, et al. Long-term lemonade based dietary manipulation in patients with hypocitraturic nephrolithiasis. J Urol. 2007;177:1358-1362.
Kidney stones. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: http://www.urologyhealth.org/urology/index.cfm?article=148. Updated March 7, 2016.
Kidney stones in adults. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/stonesadults/index.htm. Updated February 2013. Accessed March 7, 2016.
Management of ureteral calculi: EAU/AUA nephrolithiasis panel (2007). American Urological Association website. http://www.auanet.org/education/guidelines/ureteral-calculi.cfm. Accessed March 7, 2016.
Martini LA, Wood RJ. Should dietary calcium and protein be restricted in patients with nephrolithiasis? Nutr Rev. 2000;58:111-117.
Nephrolithiasis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114904/Nephrolithiasis. Updated June 30, 2016. Accessed September 28, 2016.
Pearle MS, Lingemann JE, et al. Prospective, randomized controlled trial comparing shock wave lithotripsy and ureteroscopy for lower pole caliceal calculi 1 cm or less. J Urol. 2005;173:2005-2009.
Vitamin C. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/biomedical-libraries/natural-alternative-treatments. Updated December 2015. Accessed March 7, 2016.
1/4/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114904/Nephrolithiasis: Hollingsworth JM, Rogers MA, et al. Medical therapy to facilitate urinary stone passage: A meta-analysis. Lancet. 2006;368:1171-1179.
1/4/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114904/Nephrolithiasis: Mora B, Giorni E, et al. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation: an effective treatment for pain caused by renal colic in emergency care. J Urol. 2006;175:1737-1741; discussion 1741.
Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardAdrienne Carmack, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.