Understanding Kidney Stones: What You Need to Know

Understanding Kidney Stones

Understanding Kidney Stones: What You Need to Know. Have you ever had a kidney stone? If you have, you know how painful these little rocks can be. But, even if you haven’t, kidney stones are something you want to avoid. Kidney stones form when minerals and other substances in your urine crystallize into hard little pebbles. They start tiny but can grow over time, blocking the urine flow and causing much pain.

The excellent news is that kidney stones are usually not dangerous and often pass independently. But when they don’t, the pain can be excruciating. In addition, kidney stones can cause nausea, vomiting, and blood in the urine as they move through your urinary tract. The only way to relieve the pain is to allow the stone to pass or remove it.

The best way to avoid kidney stones is to drink plenty of water to dilute your urine, eat a balanced diet, and limit excess salt. Kidney stones tend to dash in families, so knowing your risks and taking preventive action is critical. If you’ve already had one, the chances of getting another are higher. But don’t worry, with the proper self-care and medical treatment if needed. Kidney stones don’t have to be something you have to live with.

What Are Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are hard mineral deposits that form in your kidneys. They develop when the urine in your kidneys becomes concentrated, allowing minerals to crystallize and stick together. Common kidney stones are calcium stones, usually made of calcium oxalate.

  • Calcium stones: These hard stones create calcium and oxalate. They tend to form when urine is acidic and concentrated. Reducing sodium, animal protein, and sugar in your diet can help prevent calcium stones from forming.
  • Struvite stones create of magnesium, ammonia, and phosphate. They often form after an infection. Antibiotics need to prevent struvite stones from coming back.
  • Cystine stones: These rare stones make up an amino acid called cysteine. Cystine stones tend to run in families and can be hard to prevent. However, drinking plenty of water and making dietary changes may help.

During pregnancy, you can take steps to prevent kidney stones from forming or coming back. Drinking six to eight glasses of water per day to produce at least two to three liters of urine, eating a balanced diet low in salt, animal protein, and sugar, and maintaining a healthy weight are the best ways to avoid these painful stones in the first place. If you’ve had a kidney stone, talk to your doctor about specific prevention steps based on your type of stone.

The Common Causes and Risk Factors of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones, again and again, cause a buildup of certain minerals in your urine. Some of the most common risk factors and causes include:

  1. Dehydration or low urine volume: Not drinking enough fluids is a major cause of kidney stones. Aim for 8-10 glasses of water in 12 hours to dilute your urine and flush out minerals.
  2. High sodium diet: Too much sodium can increase calcium excretion in urine and raise your risk of kidney stones. Cut back on processed foods, pizza, and chips, and add less salt when cooking.
  3. Obesity or weight issues: Extra weight tends to increase calcium excretion in urine. Losing excess pounds can help lower your chances of developing stones.
  4. Medical conditions: Gout, inflammatory bowel disease, and renal tubular acidosis can increase stone risk. See your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
  5. Supplements or medications: Some supplements like calcium and vitamin C or medications such as diuretics may promote stone formation in specific individuals. Talk to your pharmacist or physician about alternative options or dosage adjustments.
  6. Family history: Some people are born with a higher tendency to form stones due to genetics. You may be at higher risk if someone in your family has a history of kidney stones. Discuss prevention strategies with your doctor.

The good news is there are many steps you can take to avoid getting kidney stones in the first place or prevent them from coming back. Staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and limiting excess sodium are some of the best ways to keep those little pebbles at bay.

Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Stones

Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Stones


The typical symptom of kidney stones is a pain in your side, back, and lower abdomen. The pain can come and go at first but then become severe as the stone moves through your urinary tract. The pain often starts suddenly and can last a few minutes to a few hours. It may feel like cramping or a dull ache in your lower back, side, groin, or abdomen. You may also feel pain when you urinate, see blood in your urine, or need to go to the bathroom.

Nausea and Vomiting-Understanding Kidney Stones

The intense pain from kidney stones may cause nausea and vomiting. You may throw up or feel sick, especially if the pain is severe. Anti-nausea medication can help relieve these symptoms.

Cloudy or Foul-Smelling Urine

Your urine may look cloudy or foul-smelling if you have an infection and kidney stones. See your doctor right away for an exam and urine test. You may need a round of antibiotics to clear up the infection before treating the stone.

Fever and Chills-Understanding Kidney Stones

A high fever over 101 F and chills indicate a kidney stone has caused an infection or blocked urine flow. It is a medical emergency, and you should seek immediate medical care. An untreated blockage can lead to permanent kidney damage.

Other symptoms may include difficulty urinating, urinating in small amounts, or feeling like your bladder is still full after urinating. The only way to confirm the diagnosis of kidney stones is to consult your doctor for an exam, medical imaging tests, and lab tests of your urine and blood. Getting the correct diagnosis and treatment can help prevent complications from kidney stones.

Diagnosing Kidney Stones: Tests and Procedures

Once your doctor suspects you may have kidney stones, several tests can help confirm the diagnosis and determine the best treatment.

Blood and Urine Tests

Simple blood and urine tests can check for high calcium levels, uric acid, and other minerals that may indicate kidney stones. A urinalysis can also detect blood in the urine, which shares with kidney stones.

Understanding Kidney Stones-Imaging Tests

Imaging tests utilize X-rays, sound waves, or magnetic fields to create pictures of your kidneys and urinary tract. These include:

Abdominal X-rays: Can detect calcified stones in the kidneys or ureters.

Ultrasound: Uses sound waves to generate images and locate stones in the kidneys, ureters, and bladder. Ultrasound is noninvasive and does not expose you to radiation.

CT scan: A computed tomography (CT) scan uses X-rays and a computer to create detailed 3D images of your urinary tract to locate stones.

Understanding Kidney Stones Cystoscopy

A cystoscopy uses a small flexible scope inserted into your urethra to view your bladder and ureters. It can detect stones in the ureters or determine if a stone has passed into the bladder. Your urologist can also use special tools through the scope to remove or break up stones if needed.

These diagnostic tests provide the information your doctor needs to determine appropriate treatment, including pain management, drinking plenty of water to help pass small stones, medication, or procedures like extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy to break up rocks or ureteroscopy to remove them. The shortly you get checked out, the sooner you can get relief from your painful symptoms and get back to living stone-free.

 Kidney Stones Edition

Understanding Kidney Stones

What causes kidney stones?

Kidney stones form when your urine carries more certain minerals than the fluid in your urine can dilute. Common kidney stones are calcium, uric acid, and struvite. The leading causes of kidney stones include:

She is not drinking enough fluids. Low urine volume is a significant risk factor for kidney stones. Aim for 8-10 glasses of water in 12 hours to produce 2 liters of urine.

High sodium diet. Replete salt in your diet can lead to calcium stones. Reduce processed foods, pizza, and chips, and add little or no salt when cooking.

Obesity and weight issues. Extra weight tends to increase calcium excretion in urine, leading to stones. So losing excess pounds can help.

Gut health issues. Problems absorbing calcium or oxalate can increase the risk of specific stones. Talk to your doctor about possible treatments.

Genetics. Some people are born with a higher tendency to develop stones due to family history. However, genetic factors account for about half of the risk of kidney stones.

Do Kidney Stones Cause Permanent Damage?

The excellent news is kidney stones rarely cause permanent damage if treated. However, they can be extremely painful and require medical procedures to remove huge stones. Possible complications include:

Obstruction of the ureter. Stones may get stuck in the ureter, the tube connecting the kidneys and bladder. It can cause severe pain and infection.

Kidney damage. Complete blockage of urine flow for a long time can potentially lead to kidney damage. Seek immediate medical help if the pain is intense or you notice signs of infection like fever or chills.

Recurrence. Once you’ve had a kidney stone, the chances of developing another one within 5-10 years are 50% without preventive measures. Diet and lifestyle changes can help reduce risk.

The bottom line is most kidney stones will pass on their own within 48 hours with the help of pain medication, rest, and drinking plenty of water. However, see your doctor immediately if the pain is unbearable, you notice signs of infection, or the stone does not pass. With the proper treatment and prevention plan, kidney stones do not have to become a chronic problem.


So there you have it, the basics on kidney stones and what you need to know. The good news is that while painful, kidney stones are usually not life-threatening and often pass on their own. However, if you experience severe pain or nausea or see blood in your urine, don’t hesitate to call your doctor immediately. By understanding the causes, risks, and treatment options for kidney stones, you can take steps to avoid getting them in the first place.

Staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy weight are all ways to lower your risk. And if you do get kidney stones, work closely with your doctor on the best treatment plan based on the size and type of stones. The more you know about kidney stones, the better prepared you’ll be to avoid or deal with them.

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