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:
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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.
Lithotomy is an open surgery used to remove stones. This is rarely used because of the less invasive options available.
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
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Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardAdrienne Carmack, MD Last Updated: 3/3/2014