Kidney stones form inside the kidneys or other parts of the urinary tract. They are made form a crystal-like substance. There are different types of kidney stones.
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The cause will vary with the type of stone:
Kidney stones are more common in men under 50 years old or anyone with:
Calcium oxalate or phosphorus stones are more common in those with:
Struvite stones are more common in women. It is more common in those with past UTIs.
Uric acid stones are more common in those with:
Most kidney stones will not cause symptoms. Other stones may cause:
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Urine may be tested to look for infection or blood. The doctor may suspect a stone based on symptoms. Images of the urinary tract will show if a stone is present. Tests may include:
Blood tests may also be done to look for a cause.
The stones may pass in urine without problems. Drinking water can also help to flush small stones. Pain medicine may be needed.
Surgery may be needed if:
Types of surgery include:
A stent may be placed for a short time. The stent will help to keep the passage open to allow the stone to pass. It will help if there is too much swelling in the path that the stone has to pass through.
Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) uses shockwaves through the skin to help break up the stone. A machine delivers the shockwave while you lie on a table. The waves break up large stones. The smaller pieces should be able to pass through the urine.
Once you have had a kidney stone, you are more likely to have another. To help reduce the chance of another kidney stone:
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
National Kidney Foundation
The Kidney Foundation of Canada
Kidney stones. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/kidney-stones. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Kidney stones. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: http://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/kidney-stones?article=148. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Nephrolithiasis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114904/Nephrolithiasis. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Last reviewed March 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrienne Carmack, MD