Most kidney stones will not cause symptoms. Other stones may cause:
Sharp, stabbing pain in the mid-back
Pain in the lower belly, groin, or genital areas
Nausea and vomiting
Blood in the urine
Increased need to urinate
Burning pain during urination
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:
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:
Stones are very large or growing larger.
There is bleeding, infection, or damage to the kidney.
Urine flow is blocked.
Stone cannot pass on its own.
Types of surgery include:
Ureteroscopy—does not need cuts in the skin. A small tube is passed up into the tract to the stone. Tools are passed through this tube to remove the stone.
Percutaneous nephrolithotomy—a small cut is made on the low back. A scope is passed through this cut. The stone can then be broken into pieces and removed.
Lithotomy—a large incision will be used. This will give access to the area to remove stones. It is rarely used. The choices with small or no incisions are more common now.
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:
Drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
Talk to your doctor about what diet is right for you. You may have to avoid certain food or drinks.
Medicine may help to stop some stones from forming again.
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
Last Updated: 01/29/2021
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